Kerala gold smuggling case: former Principal Secretary Sivasankar grilled for 7 hours

Police use water cannons to disperse protesters seeking action in the gold smuggling case in Kozhikode.

Police use water cannons to disperse protesters seeking action in the gold smuggling case in Kozhikode.   | Photo Credit: -

Public attention appeared riveted early Wednesday on the prolonged questioning of the "expelled" Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, M. Sivasankar, at the Customs House here in connection with the case relating to the suspected large scale smuggling of gold via a diplomatic channel into the country through airports in Kerala.

Mr Sivasankar, who arrived at the office, at 5.30 p.m. was yet to emerge out of the building at 1,30 a.m. The protracted examination of the officer triggered widespread speculation that the Customs could arrest him at any moment on the charge of abetment of smuggling. If so, enforcers would need to transport him to Kochi for production before the Economic Offences Court there.

A phalanx of TV crew and journalists were on a stakeout in front of the office given the political import of the possible arrest of the senior bureaucrat.

Mr. Sivasankar was for long a close confidant of Mr. Vijayan. He had headed the IT portfolio held by Mr Vijayan. He also advised the CM on other matters of governance.

The officer apparently fell out of favour after the Opposition alleged that the bureaucrat was close to Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the United Arab Emirates. The Customs had named her as second accused in the case relating to the smuggling of gold in air cargo shipments addressed to the UAE consulate here.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had termed the economic offence as a crime of utmost gravity. It told its special court in Kochi that terrorist organisation could benefit from the proceeds of the felony.

The NIA had booked Swapna among others on the charge of violating the provisions of the United Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It had arrested her from Bangalore dramatically.

The Opposition had weaponised Mr Sivasankar's purported proximity with the smuggling case suspects to put the State government on the defence..

Mr Sivasankar had on July 7 told The Hindu that he knew Swapna but had nothing to do with the crime. "At some stage, if the investigators required to speak to me, I would oblige.", he had said.

Nevertheless, the Customs labelled him a "person of interest" in the case. Its officials inspected his apartment also served a notice for questioning him.

Mr. Sivasankar also became the target of Opposition ire, with Congress and BJP workers burning him in the effigy alongside that of Mr Vijayan.

A committee headed by Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta was probing Mr Sivasankar on the charge of official misconduct. The police intelligence was aiding it.

State law enforcement was enquiring his suspected role in posting Swapna to e a key post in the IT department. Officials suspect that Ms Swapna had faked her academic credentials to bag the position. The Cantonment police have registered a case of forgery against her.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 1:06:53 PM |

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