Kerala Chief Minister's former principal secretary M Sivasankar, who was arrested on Wednesday night, was produced before the Ernakulam principal sessions court on Thursday morning and was sent to seven-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for further interrogation.
Sivasankar has been arraigned as the fifth accused in a case registered by the ED against gold smuggling in the state. The agency has maintained that there was evidence of Sivasankar intervening to release baggage with a diplomatic tag that contained gold.
Considering the health problems cited by Sivasankar, the Ernakulam principal sessions court directed that Sivasankar should be quizzed only between 6 am and 6 pm and he should be given one-hour rest after every three hours of quizzing. His close relatives including wife and brother would be allowed to meet him. He would be allowed to undergo Ayurveda treatment without affecting the quizzing.
The ED maintained that Sivasankar was not cooperating with the quizzing.
Sivasankar's bail application will be considered by the court next week.
Sivasankar was arrested after the Kerala High Court denied him anticipatory bail on Wednesday. Various sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were invoked against him as there was evidence of him helping the smuggling accused Swapna Suresh manage the illegally-earned money. Sivasankar also allegedly pressurised a private bank to convert about Rs 1.4 crore to US dollars for Swapna.
According to the arrest memo issued by the ED, Sivasankar even intervened for releasing baggage with a diplomatic tag in 2019 that contained gold.
As soon as the gold smuggling racket came to the fore in July, the BJP alleged that someone from the Chief Minister's office had contacted the Customs requesting to release the baggage that contained gold. But a Customs official later denied it and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also strongly flayed the opposition parties for making such baseless allegation.
Hence, the present revelation by the ED would be causing much embarrassment to the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, BJP state president K Surendran alleged that two more officials at the Chief Minister's office were involved in the nexus with the accused in the gold smuggling case. Already the links of a couple of ministers have surfaced.
Various opposition parties staged protests against the government across the state on Thursday, demanding the Chief Minister to resign.