Kerala Gold Smuggling Scam: CM Denies Protecting Sivasankar

M Sivasankar, suspended IAS officer and former principal secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has confessed to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that prime accused in the sensational Kerala gold smuggling scam, Swapna Suresh, was a family friend and Vijayan had authorised him to be the contact person between the state administration and UAE consulate.

He further confessed to the central probe agency that Suresh got cash from an Egyptian and he got her in touch with his chartered accountant.

According to Times Now report, Sivasankar, when asked to explain the acquaintance with Suresh and Sandeep Nair, said that he know Suresh as a secretary to consulate general since 2017.

Subsequently, Swapna became a family friend and also knew her parents and husband. He further added that he had met Nair 3-4 times in the presence of Swapna Suresh.

Recently, Kerala High Court gave an anticipatory bail to CMO chief secretary M Sivasankar over his involvement in gold smuggling scam.

Customs administrators at the Thiruvananthapuram Airport in Kerala detained about 30 kilograms of gold, worth Rs 13.5 crore on July 5, 2020, from an air cargo delivered to the United Arab Emirates Consulate. The shipment load was classified as diplomatic baggage. This has created a new political controversy where a simple 13.5 crore gold is linked to the CMO office and other renowned personalities of Kerala.

A simple smuggling case and its political peculiarity have brought the attention of four major government institutions, that is, National intelligence agency, Enforcement Directorate, Customs Department, Central bureau investigation.

Recent findings:

Terror link:

A recent connection of the accused in gold smuggling to D company of Dawood Ibrahim’s has brought the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) into the picture where the agency is investing into any possible foreign terror link. We could see a rise in gold smuggling cases all over India and NIA feels there is a more massive international conspiracy of smuggled gold funding into terror activities.

Kerala High Court instructs ED & Customs not to arrest Sivasankar till October 23:

Kerala High Court granted anticipatory bail to the connected CMO chief secretory and linkage to the main suspect of the case IAS M Sivasankar and asked ED and customs not to arrest him. Senior advocate P Vijayabhanu, appearing for Sivasankar, made a point that the former Principal Secretary has been willing to cooperate with the investigation in the case and is patient enough with all the probe by several agencies. Advocate asked the court to protect Sivasankar from arrest by affirming “He is not going to flee.”

On Monday, Customs said to Kerala Hight Court that Sivasankar is playing politics, when his advocate made a statement that former Principal Secretary was a pawn in the political game happening in the state. When the anticipatory bail plea came up for hearing, Vijayabhanu said that Sivasankar was being persecuted like a criminal by all the central investigating agencies for some other purpose.

Sivasankar hospitalised amidst the probe:

On October 16, Customs bureaucrats reached Sivasankar residence issuing the notice of him to appear before agency with some relevant documents of the case. Sivasankar complained about chest pain and was taken to the hospital in customs vehicle. On Monday, Sivasankar was discharged from the hospital following the Hight Courts restrained arrest order.

CBI and Life Mission probe:

Another hit comes to the Kerala Government and CM Vijayan when CBI on alleged violations of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) provision started inquiring into the foreign funding of the Kerala Government prime project of Life Mission. The project primarily deals with the construction of houses for the landless and houseless population using funds from sponsorships and the role of the State Government was to provide the land only.

Recent findings show that UAE based charity organisation Red Crescent was funding the project, and UAE Consulate was an intermediary in the hole process. The central gold scam’s accused are also connected to UAE Consulate.

Kerala CM’s stance on matter:

Opposition is demanding the resignation of the Kerala Chief Minister over the scam as the main accused in statements are indicating that CM knew about the development of the fraud.

However, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reported that there is no evidence that the Kerala chief minister is involved in the gold scam.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Vijayan reemphasised his Government was not involved in Kerala gold smuggling scam. He said that his Government never tried to protect his former principle Principal Secretary Sivasankar after his link with gold smuggling scam was established. Vijayan had announced Sivasankar’s suspension on July 16 based on the recommendations by a state government-appointed two-member committee probing his role in this scam.

Moreover, Vijayan stated that Sivasankar has no connection with the CMO and probe agencies are free to take appropriate action based on their investigation.

On asking about the NIA probe into terror activities, the chief minister said “NIA has come here to investigate the case to find out if any such links exist. Let them continue their probe.”

The investigation by ED and Customs will unravel the political truth behind the scam.

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