The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Chief Secretary M Sivasankar on 28th October in connection with the Gold Smuggling case that emerged in July this year. During the investigation, his role was revealed in the smuggling of gold via diplomatic cargo to the UAE consulate in India. The arrest of IAS officer M Sivasankar is being seen as a massive setback to the CPI(M)-led Kerala government.
Enforcement Directorate arrests former Chief Secretary of the Kerala CMO M Sivasankar, in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case. He will be produced the court tomorrow. https://t.co/770bF72mr3— ANI (@ANI) October 28, 2020
Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, V Muraleedharan, appreciated the work done by ED in the case. He tweeted, “Exposed the deliberate attempt by @vijayanpinarayi & his coterie to shelter and aid the smugglers & anti-national elements.” He also alleged that the arrest proves CM Pinarayi’s involvement in the case. “It’s just a tip of the iceberg & he will not be the last person,” he further added.
Today’s arrest proves the direct involvement of @vijayanpinarayi in #Goldscam. It’s just a tip of the iceberg & he will not be the last person.— V Muraleedharan (@VMBJP) October 28, 2020
The arrogant & shameless @vijayanpinarayi must seek an unconditional apology from the people of Kerala and resign immediately.
Earlier, High Court had rejected Sivasankar’s anticipatory bail plea. He had applied for two bail pleas as he was to be arrested by ED and the customs department. Both departments are investigating the gold smuggling case in their own capacity. 57-year-old Sivasankar was one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the CPI(M)-led Kerala government in the last four years. He was earlier questioned by the ED for almost seven hours.
Sivasankar helped Swapna Suresh – says ED
ED has said that M Sivasankar helped Swapna Suresh, who is one of the key accused in the gold smuggling case. Swapna Suresh was an executive secretary at the UAE consulate and believed to have close relations with CM’s office. It was also mentioned that he had prompted CA Venugopal Iyer to open a joint bank locker with Suresh.
Possible that Sivasankar knew about Swapna’s involvement in gold smuggling – says High Court
On 28th October, Kerala High Court dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of Sivasankar. While passing the order, the court said, “There is a clear indication that the applicant was very close to Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in this crime.” The court further added that probably he was not directly involved in the case, but ED has enough evidence to interrogate him. As a senior government official, he is bound to cooperate.
The court said that their acquaintance went beyond the official capacity. It said, “The fact that the applicant was in constant contact with one of the prime witness, namely Swapna Suresh, and that he had even volunteered to help her by contacting his Chartered Accountant and asking him to assist her in managing her finances indicates that there is a fair possibility that applicant knew about the involvement of Swapna Suresh in the alleged smuggling activity. Whether the applicant was himself actively involved in the commission of the offence is something which is to be investigated and found out.”
Sivasankar was constantly monitoring the bank locker
According to ED, Sivasankar was constantly monitoring the money in the bank locker. The agency further stated that he helped Swapna in laundering black money close to Rs. 30 lakh. The CA allegedly kept him in the loop about every transaction in the account. The agency also alleged that he helped Swapna to convert black money to foreign currency and smuggle it to the UAE. CA Venugopal has been listed as a witness in the case.
The gold smuggling case
On 5th July 2020, the gold scam was exposed after the Customs Department seized 30 kg of gold from a diplomatic consignment addressed to the UAE consulate. The department arrested P Sarith Kumar, who had served as public relations officer of the consulate. He was at the airport to receive the luggage. Later, the department arrested Swapna Suresh, and another accused, Sandip Nair, were arrested in their hideout in Bengaluru. Several top officials of the CM’s officer are under scanner in the scam.