Former principal secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister, M Sivasankar, had allegedly intervened to get a diplomatic cargo released from the Customs at the behest of Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate on Thursday stated in its petition seeking custody of the suspended IAS officer.
The agency had on Wednesday arrested Sivasankar on charges of alleged money laundering in the smuggling case.
On Thursday, the Principal Sessions Court in Kochi allowed the ED four-day custody of Sivasankar, who has been listed as the fifth accused in the alleged money laundering case the agrency is probing in the gold smuggling scam.
According to the agency, Sivasankar had allegedly helped Swapna to park proceeds from the smuggling deal in a bank locker and kept a tab on all transactions. He was suspended after the smuggling scandal was exposed in July this year.
In its affidavit to the court, ED said Sivasankar had “admitted” that he had spoken to a Customs official in April 2019, allegedly seeking clearance of diplomatic baggage that was to be examined by the Customs, at the behest of Swapna. “Sivasankar has denied this in the statement, but ED is in possession of WhatsApp messages exchanged between Swapna and Sivasankar, which indicate Sivasankar intervened in the clearance of diplomatic baggage as late as April 2019,” the affidavit stated.
The ED said the smuggling racket had conspired to send two dummy diplomatic baggage in July 2019, two months after Sivasankar’s alleged intervention with the Customs, which could also be a dummy diplomatic baggage or could have contained smuggled gold that was cleared without undergoing Customs check.
The ED is now seen as bringing Sivasankar to the core part of the gold smuggling case. The agency had so far been unable to furnish evidence to show that Sivasankar had intervened to get the diplomatic baggage, containing 30 kg of gold that the Customs had busted in July this year, to the country.
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By pointing at WhatsApp messages allegedly exchanged with Swapna Suresh last year, ED is trying to establish that Sivasankar was privy to other instances of smuggling by the racket.
In the arrest memo issued to Sivasankar, the ED stated that “analysis of chats shows that you might have called for clearance of other diplomatic cargo as well, including the ones containing smuggled gold”.
Meanwhile, Opposition Congress and BJP continued their protests, calling for the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by taking moral responsibility following the arrest of his former principal secretary.
On Thursday, Youth Congress workers marched to the CM’s residence, while BJP workers tried to storm the state Secretariat.
BJP state president K Surendran alleged that two more officials at the CMO and two state ministers were in touch with the racket. “The CM should be questioned to ascertain his role in the case. Vijayan had introduced Swapna to Sivasankar,’’ he said.
Vijayan told the media: “The Opposition is trying to foist the doings of officials on the government. There is nothing to blame the government for. Projecting Sivasankar, don’t try to wage war against the government.”