Vijayan under pressure.

Vijayan under pressure.

Big arrests in Kerala puts Vijayan in spot; who’s next after ED, Customs go for kill

After Sivasankar, CPM secy's son arrested; party rules out Vijayan's resignation

Agency Report | Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi | 29 October, 2020 | 11:10 PM

Hours after the Enforcement Directorate secured the custody of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former secretary M Sivasankar, in Bengaluru, the ED arrested Bineesh Kodiyeri, the son of CPI-M Kerala secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

The ED has arrested Bineesh in connection with the funding of money to an accused in a narcotic case – Anoop Mohammed.

Anoop Mohammed was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau in Bengaluru a few months back.

Bineesh was first interrogated by the ED officials last month and soon after that the ED had also sent him a notice under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and asked him to give the list of his assets and they directed the State Registration department to prepare a list of his assets and to see that there is no transfer or sale of his assets (properties) without their knowledge.

He was then asked to appear before them on October 21, but he wrote to ED that he needs some time and appeared before them on Thursday morning.

Soon he was taken into custody and was produced before a court there.

Reacting to the developments, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said this is not the first time the sons of Balakrishnan have landed in trouble.

“The CPI-M in Kerala is now in custody. First, the secretary to Vijayan – Sivasankar was arrested by ED, now CPI-M party secretary’s son has been arrested by ED in a narcotics case. Our request is Balakrishnan should not resign as state secretary. Only if he remains in that post, will it be good for us,” said Chennithala.

“Look what’s happening, Vijayan’s office is in the midst of gold smuggling, while Balakrishnan’s home is a den of narcotics,” said Chennithala.

State BJP president K. Surendran said strange are the ways what’s happening to the CPI-M in Kerala.

“On one hand Vijayan is caught in the gold smuggling case and none will forget the decision of the CPI-M wherein they said the family members of all party members should be equally clean. See what has happened to Balakrishnan’s son. It’s time the CPI-M in Kerala undergoes a total cleansing and no state government in the country would have had a double whammy on a single day. Both Vijayan and Balakrishnan should quit,” said Surendran.

But putting up a brave face CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said BJP is desperate.

“People in Kerala know everything. Already Balakrishnan had said that neither the party nor the government will come to the help of wrongdoers. This is going to affect the image of the opposition parties,” said Yechury.

The double whammy for the ruling CPI-M has come at a time when the party was getting ready to face two polls – for local bodies in December and the Assembly election in May 2021.

Vijayan has gone silent and in the past whenever there is some relief that either he or his government used to get in court cases, he often made it a point to address the media but when something goes wrong, he often surfaces only after a few days.

The CPI-M has ruled out the resignation of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The ED has named Sivasankar as the fifth accused in a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, while the others in the list of accused include the prime accused in the gold smuggling case – Swapna Suresh, P.S. Sarith, Sandip Nair and Faizal Fareed.

The ED had taken Sivasankar into custody from an Ayurveda institution on Wednesday in the state capital, moments after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected.

Later in the night, his arrest was recorded and on Thursday morning the ED took him to the Ernakulam Principal Session Court.

In the court, Sivasankar said he is being harassed by the ED and he was questioned till 1 a.m. and it started again at 5.30 a.m.

He said that he was picked up by the ED while he was on a two-week Ayurveda treatment and he had completed only 9 days’ treatment.

The ED pointed out that Sivasankar is not cooperating with the probe. The court after hearing both the sides handed the top IAS official to the ED for a week’s questioning.

The court also asked ED to give him rest for an hour after three hours of questioning besides allowed him to meet his counsel.

Sivasankar was also given permission if the need arises to consult an Ayurvedic doctor.

Across the state on Thursday, various feeder organisations of both the Congress and the BJP are protesting in the streets demanding the resignation of Vijayan.

“Where is Vijayan, he is not to be seen for a few days now. He just cannot wash his hands off. He never ever said a word of ever meeting Swapna and first, he said there was lightning and destroyed the CCTV in his official residence. Much later he was forced to say that he has met Swapna at his official residence. Vijayan knows everything and he cannot remain in hiding,” said Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.

State BJP president K. Surendran dropped another bombshell when he told the media in the state capital that he has solid information that it’s just not Sivasankar alone.

“Apart from Sivasankar, two officials in Vijayan’s office also has a role in the case. The smuggling gang has visited Vijayan’s office and two state ministers also have links with the accused. I say this with full responsibility and this is not just a political allegation,” said Surendran and added that Swapna was in UAE when Vijayan was there.

But batting for Vijayan was his close party leader M.V. Govindan who said there is no question of Vijayan resigning.

“That’s ruled out and if anyone says about moral responsibility, then it should be PM Modi who has that because Sivasankar is a central service official. Let the present probe go forward, the CPI-M has nothing to fear and the question of resignation is ruled out,” said Govindan.

With the arrest of Sivasankar, he has entered the record books by becoming the first serving IAS official in the state to be arrested.

Meanwhile, the Customs is also likely to seek the custody of Sivasankar, even as he is expected to move for bail.

While the game is over for Kerala’s most powerful IAS officer M.Sivasankar whose arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been recorded, all eyes are on which direction would the probe agencies be now looking and indications are that it could well reach the office of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

While Vijayan ever since his trusted Secretary Sivasankar was first removed from the post and later suspended has been time and again washing his hands off the crime of Sivasankar and his stock statement has been, “I do not know anything and none from my office has called the Customs. This has been confirmed by the Customs themselves,”.

However, Vijayan’s stock statement appears to have fallen flat as the arrest memo of the ED reveals Sivasankar had called the Customs to see if the baggage of the UAE Consulate can be given without the mandatory check-up.

The Customs had arrested P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, on July 5 for allegedly smuggling gold in diplomatic baggage destined for the Consulate. Another former Consulate staff Swapna Suresh and her associate Sandip Nair were arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Bengaluru.

Vijayan removed Sivasankar as his Principal Secretary and then as IT Secretary after it allegedly surfaced that Swapna and Sivasankar were close friends.

And since then till last night Sivasankar was questioned by the Customs, ED and the NIA and all through he said he had no clue of Swapna’s smuggling links.

But after over 100 hours of questioning and with the Kerala High Court on Wednesday rejected his anticipatory bail plea, the ED took him away and one by one his detailed links with evidence has started coming out on the role of his, which was totally opposite to what he had so far claimed.

While the Congress and the BJP have increased their demands of asking Vijayan to quit, he has not opened his mouth and has ducked the routine Covid press briefing.

Meanwhile, indications are that the probe agencies very soon is expected to list out 2 more names from Vijayan’s office and is likely to be called in for questioning.

Incidentally, this gold smuggling case is also linked to the Life Mission project (the pet project of Vijayan where homes are built for the homeless using sponsorship money) and even though the CBI had commenced probe, the government has managed to get a partial stay in that probe, but the CBI has started its move to get it vacated.

The links of both Sivasankar and Swapna Suresh has also surfaced that a fat sum of Rs 9 crore of the total Rs 20 crore project cost has been paid as a commission.

So all in all, the coming days are going to be crucial not just for Vijayan, but for the CPI-M who by now has been trying their best to blame Sivasankar and give a clean chit to Vijayan. (IANS)