Under the scanner: Swapna.

Under the scanner: Swapna.

Kerala gold smuggling case: IAS officer quizzed for 9 hours by Customs

Why are you shielding IAS officer, Congress asks Kerala CM

Agency Report | Thiruvananthapuram | 15 July, 2020 | 06:30 PM

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former Secretary and IAS officer M. Sivasankar grilled for 9 hours by the Customs in the gold smuggling case.

Sivasankar had arrived for questioning at the Customs office on Tuesday evening and was let off only around 2.15 am on Wednesday. He is set to be called again by the Customs and also the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is also probing the case.

A three-member team of Customs officials had gone to Sivasankar’s house on Tuesday to serve a notice upon him. Sivasankar, present at the house, said he was ready to appear before the officials during the day itself for questioning and did so.

Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, here and employed with the IT Department, of which Sivasankar was incharge, and three others were booked by the NIA for allegedly facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai on July 5.

Sivasankar ran into trouble after his alleged links with Swapna surfaced. Sivasankar has reportedly admitted to the Customs that he and Swapna were friends.

She was on the run after the arrest of her friend and former colleague P.S. Sarith by the Customs.

Later, it was revealed that Swapna and Sivasankar were close and had attended several Kerala government events. Vijayan removed him both as his Secretary and incharge of Information Technology Department though he ruled out his suspension on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, reports of the role played by Swapna’s husband and another person employed under Sivasankar have surfaced.

The NIA, which had taken over the case on Friday and filed a FIR against the accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, arrested Swapna and Nair from Bengaluru on Saturday for alleged role in the Kerala gold smuggling case.

It brought them back to the state on a transit remand and presented them at an NIA court in Kochi, which sent them to the agency’s custody.

The Congress again sought to corner Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the gold smuggling case, asking him why was he “shielding” IAS officer M Sivasankar in the matter.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that Vijayan is fearful of something since the gold smuggling case being probed by the NIA has reached his office.

Sivasankar was removed as CM’s Principal Secretary and IT Department Secretary after the case came to light, though Vijayan has not favoured suspension of the IAS officer.

“Whom do you fear Vijayan? Why are you shielding Sivasankar, who was grilled by the Customs for several hours? His alleged links with the arrested accused are now known to all, but you continue to shield a tainted high officer who reigned supreme for more than four years in your office. This means you have something to hide,” Chennithala said.

The Congress will hold a state-wide protest on July 24 to demand Vijayan’s resignation.

The Congress leader alleged that Vijayan now misused his daily Covid briefings to abuse people, the media and the opposition.

” The CM is trying to hide behind a probe ordered by the Chief Secretary against Sivasankar. Who is he trying to fool? Een Vijayan may be called in for questioning by the NIA. What information will the Chief Secretary probe bring out? Vijayan has to quit first and then face the probe,” added Chennithala.

State BJP President AK Surendran too demanded that Vijayan quit as Chief Minister.

“We now hear that Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel also has links with the accused. He said that he got in touch for distribution of kits by the UAE Consulate. But it was not a food kit but a ‘gold kit’. Everything appears mysterious and fishy but Vijayan continues to say there is nothing,” said Surendran.

Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, and employed with the IT Department, of which Sivasankar was in charge, and three others were booked by the National Investigation Agency for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai on July 5.

Sivasankar ran into trouble after his alleged links with Swapna surfaced. Sivasankar has reportedly admitted to the Customs that he and Swapna were friends.

She was on the run after the arrest of her friend and former colleague P.S. Sarith by the Customs.

Later, it was revealed that Swapna and Sivasankar were close and had attended several Kerala government events. Vijayan removed him both as his Principal Secretary and in charge of the Information Technology Department though he ruled out his suspension on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the name of another person attached to Vijayan’s office has surfaced for allegedly helping those involved in the case.

Sivasankar, who was let off by the Customs after a nine-hour grilling in the early hours of Wednesday, is now likely to be called in for more questioning by the Customs and the NIA. (IANS)