The Kerala government on Thursday suspended senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was the principal secretary to the Chief Minister, over his alleged links with gold smuggling via diplomatic cargo to the UAE Consulate here.
Announcing the decision, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media, “The conduct of the IAS officer (Sivasankar) was found in violation of the service rules. He was suspended based on a report from a two-member committee headed by the chief secretary. The departmental inquiry against Sivasankar will continue and further action will be taken based on the inquiry.”
Sivasankar, 57, was conferred the IAS in 2000. After the smuggling racket — being probed by the NIA and Customs — came to light on July 5, Vijayan had removed Sivasankar from his post. The decision to suspend him came two days after Customs questioned him for nine hours, searched his premises and found that he had maintained close links with alleged members of the smuggling racket.
After he was removed as principal secretary to the CM, Sivasankar had gone on leave. However, the Opposition had been demanding his suspension.
Sivasankar’s name came up after Customs arrested Swapna Suresh, a former executive secretary at the UAE Consulate, in connection with the seizure of 30 kg of gold from cargo addressed to the Acting Consul-General. It was alleged that Sivasankar had interfered to get the cargo released without the clearance of Customs. The probe later found that Sivasankar had appointed Suresh in a government entity flouting norms and misusing his powers as IT secretary. Customs also found that Sivasankar maintained close links with Suresh and another accused, Sarith P S.
The call detail record of the IAS officer, which appeared on the media earlier this week, showed that Sivasankar had lengthy conversations with Suresh and Sarith in the last three months.
It was also alleged that they would meet at Sivasankar’s rented apartment, and that the flat was arranged by Arun Balachandran, who had served as the IT fellow of the Chief Minister since 2017. He had worked as Director (Marketing and Operations) at the High Power Digital Advisory Committee of the state government. After his name came up in connection with the gold smuggling case, Balachandran was removed as IT fellow of the CM. It was Sivasankar who had brought Balachandran to this post.
“The issue (Balachandran’s appointment) is being looked into. There will be more action. The IT fellows were appointed as per the recommendations of an expert committee,” said Vijayan.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the CM was forced to take action against Sivasankar after realising that the probe would lead to him (Vijayan). “Sivasankar indulged in anti-national activities with the connivance of the Chief Minister. The probe should cover the Chief Minister’s Office,” said Chennithala.
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