M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has been detained by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the suspected money laundering angle in the case involving smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.
ED officials arrived here this (Wednesday) morning at a private Ayurveda hospital where Sivasankar had managed to admit himself for treatment for chronic back pain, and served him a summons for further interrogation at the agency’s office in Kochi.
High Court denies bail plea
The agency had confronted him immediately after he was denied an anticipatory bail by the Kerala High Court. The tired-looking former top bureaucrat refused to answer questions from journalists as he walked out of the hospital with plainclothesmen in tow. He was soon whisked away to a waiting car and taken to the ED office in Kochi.
The anticipatory bail application was rejected by the Kerala High Court in Kochi on Wednesday. The ED and the Customs had vehemently opposed the bail application of Sivasankar in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case.
Suspected kingpin in case
During the argument of the case, the ED had submitted that Sivasankar was the kingpin in the case and ‘all strings were in his hands’. It also contended that Swapna Suresh, the 2nd accused in the case, was under his full control, and was just a pawn in the whole episode.
The ED suspects that Sivasankar had helped Swapna Suresh conceal vast proceeds generated from the crime in bank lockers and accounts. The latter had allegedly spirited away a part of the booty to Dubai in foreign currency, and Sivasankar had accompanied her on some of the trips.
Gold smuggling case
The illegal profits were allegedly 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 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.
Also read: Kerala gold smuggling case: UAE Consul General’s gunman allegedly attempts suicide
The illegal acts under the UAPA are also scheduled’ offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED would examine Sivasankar’s ‘level of culpability,’ if at all, in the matter. So far, neither the ED nor the Customs has registered a case against M Sivasankar but he has continued to be a person of interest.
‘Smokescreen of lies’
Meanwhile, Kerala Law Minister AK Balan said that the Opposition Congress and BJP were attempting to politicise the issue ahead of the local body elections by laying down a smokescreen of lies to cast the government under a cloud of suspicion. The opposition wanted to eclipse the achievements of the LDF government, he said.
The Minister clarified that there was no ground or precedent for the Chief Minister to resign merely because a former bureaucrat attached to his office was under a cloud of suspicion. It was the State government that had requested the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the case. The State government had extended full support to the Central agencies.