Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: Sivasankar Sent to 7-Day ED Custody
Earlier in the day, Sivasankar was taken into custody by the ED in connection with the case.
M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary of Kerala CMO, was on Thursday, 29 October, sent to 7-day Enforcement Directorate custody by a court in Kochi in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case, ANI reported.
Sivasankar was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday, 28 October, following several hours of questioning in the case.
Sivasankar was taken into custody by the ED in connection with the case, after the Kerala High Court denied him anticipatory bail in cases registered by the ED and the Customs Department.
The suspended IAS officer was taken into custody from the Ayurveda Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, where he was admitted, ANI reported.
Whatsapp Chats Cited for Custody
The Enforcement Directorate cited the Whatsapp conversations between Sivasankar and the key accused in Kerala gold smuggling case – Swapna Suresh, before the High Court in a sealed cover.
“Sivasankar accepted to have spoken to a senior Customs officer and made the request as per the wishes to Swapna Suresh. This clearly shows your active involvement in the offences committed by Swapna. This also amounts to misuse of public office and interference in the official working of other government departments," the probe agency has said in the arrest order, NDTV reported.
The statement further read: "That the Whatsapp chats were also indicative of the fact that Sivasankar, in his official capacity, might have called for the clearance of other diplomatic cargos as well including the ones containing smuggled gold because nobody could tell what was inside such diplomatic bags once cleared un-examined.”
Parties Demand CM’s Resignation
Meanwhile, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have once again called for Vijayan's resignation.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said that Sivasankar had merely done the chief minister's bidding.
“Former Principal Secretary Sivasankaran, who was the tongue and heart of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and controlled his office, was arrested by ED. Taken into custody. If you are still ashamed @vijayanpinarayi Must resign and leave,” he tweeted.
“The Chief Minister was justifying Sivasankar from the very beginning. Many scams committed by them are yet to come out. This Kerala democracy has never been so humiliated. The chief minister should step down without further embarrassment.”Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Twitter
He called for Vijayan to be questioned as well.
“The first accused is the Chief Minister of Kerala. It was the Chief Minister himself who committed the corruption... Only when the Chief Minister is questioned will the facts come out more,” he tweeted.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran and P K Krishnadas, national general secretary of the BJP, too demanded that Vijayan resign immediately.
Sivasankar – The Real Beneficiary in the Smuggling Case?
The investigation of the gold smuggling case by National Investigation Agency in July under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, had brought to light a scam that hit the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government too close.
Sivasankar was a prominent face of the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) and Vijayan's close confidante. Days after the initial reports were out, Sivasankar was removed from his post and suspended from service. He was alleged to have played a role in the appointment of Swapna Suresh as the Operations Manager of Space Park, a project under the IT Department, where he was the Secretary. He was alleged to have helped Swapna hide the proceeds from the crime in bank lockers and accounts and even accompany her on a few trips.
The Customs Department interrogated him first on 15 July. He was then called for questioning several times by the Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Customs department.
The court had reserved its order on the anticipatory bail application of Sivasankar on 23 October, while he had been given interim protection from arrest till 27 October.
His anticipatory bail plea had been opposed by ED, which told the court that Sivasankar appears to be connected with the serious economic offence allegedly committed by prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh.
Reports stated that the officials suspect that that Sivasankar was the real beneficiary in the case.
The agency had submitted before the high court that the former principal secretary's alleged links with the gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh can be established only through custodial interrogation.
Sivasankar had defended himself in the court, stating that he was being harassed.
(With inputs from NDTV, ANI and The News Minute.)
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