Amidst speculations of arrest, ED interrogates Sivasankar

The questioning of M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) stretched into Wednesday night amidst speculations about his possible arrest in connection with the money laundering angle of the UAE consulate-linked gold smuggling case.

The interrogation, which began around 3.30 p.m., was progressing at the agency's office here at the time of filing this report. Customs officials questioned Mr. Sivasankar at the ED office in connection with the department's probe into the case.

The day's drama unfolded after the Kerala High Court rejected his anticipatory bail in the morning. Two ED officials arrived at a private Ayurveda hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, where Mr. Sivasankar was undergoing treatment for back pain and served him a summons for further interrogation.

The embattled bureaucrat appeared stoic and refused to answer questions from journalists as he emerged from the hospital flanked by plain clothes officers. The investigating team soon whisked him away in their official car to their office in Kochi.

The agency suspected that Mr. Sivasankar helped gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh conceal the vast proceeds from the crime in bank lockers and accounts. Swapna had allegedly spirited away a part of the booty to Dubai in foreign currency, and Mr. Sivasankar had accompanied her on some of the trips.

The ED believed that the illegal profits were ploughed back into the gold smuggling operation headed by persons with suspicious links to radical organisations in the country and abroad.

Hence, the agency wanted to question him under Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The provisions relate to raising funds, directly or indirectly, for anti-national activities and include offences that imperil the economic security of the country. The illegal acts under the UAPA are also "scheduled" offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The Customs officials quizzed Mr. Sivasankar on his links with Swapna. It is learnt that the interrogation was based on the call data records of Swapna and their joint trips to the UAE, especially in 2018 and 2019. The details of certain calls made from Swapna's mobile number to an unknown number after the gold consignment was seized on July 5 were also inquired by the investigating team.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 6:46:38 PM |

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