Thiruvananthapuram

Gold smuggling case | Kerala Chief Secretary likely to submit inquiry report on appointment of Swapna Suresh

Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, detained at the NIA office in Bengalur.

Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, detained at the NIA office in Bengalur.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Kerala Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta is soon expected to present his inquiry report to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on how Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the gold smuggling case, dodged layers of administrative vetting and gained employment as the marketing liaison officer of the government-run Space Park project.

The top-level inquiry ordered by Mr. Vijayan is centred on whether former Principal Secretary, IT department, M. Sivasankar, had any role in the questionable posting.

The government was likely to act against Mr. Sivasankar if the inquiry found any wrongdoing on his part.

The Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL), a public sector entity under the State IT department, is in charge of the scheme.

The committee, which included Additional Chief Secretary, Finance, Rajesh Kumar Singh, had roped in the service of the police intelligence to find out whether Mr. Sivasankar had actively broken the rules that govern the conduct of IAS officers by “closely associating” with persons currently under investigation for smuggling and anti-national activity.

 

Ms. Swapna’s alleged association with Mr. Sivasankar had brought the scandal surrounding the attempt to smuggle gold via air cargo shipments addressed to the UAE consulate here awkwardly close to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).

The ensuing political controversy had prompted Mr. Vijayan to divest Mr. Sivasankar of his top positions in government, including his sensitive post as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.

The bureaucrat, who had gone on leave for a year, was summoned to the Customs office in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday for questioning in connection with the smuggling case.

‘Probe is at nascent stage’

A senior Customs officer privy to the legal process told The Hindu: “So far, his [Sivasankar’s] statement is exculpatory. We are not interested in other personal aspects of the issue. Prima facie, no evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing on the part of the bureaucrat. The investigation is at a nascent stage, and the charge sheet in the case is months away,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the Kerala police have booked Ms. Swapna on the charge of having faked her academic credentials to gain employment in the KSITIL.

They have also brought under the ambit of the criminal enquiry a placement agency that recommended her to the post and a global consultancy, which vetted her application at the behest of the IT department.

The smuggling case had acquired a political dimension with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party demanding Mr. Vijayan’s resignation and describing the CMO as a hive of corruption and a haven for economic offenders.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) had also opined in an editorial in Janayugam, the Party’s newspaper, that the CMO should be above suspicion, purportedly indicating a measure of disapproval in the ruling front over Mr. Sivasankar's conduct as Principal Secretary to Mr. Vijayan.

By some accounts, Mr. Vijayan is likely to take a call on Mr. Sivasankar's continuation in government service after consultations with Cabinet members before Saturday.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 5:59:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/gold-smuggling-case-kerala-chief-secretary-likely-to-submit-inquiry-report-on-appointment-of-swapna-suresh/article32099911.ece

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