ED arrests Kerala CM's former secretary M Sivasankar

ED arrests Kerala CM's former secretary M Sivasankar

The chief minister maintained silence, while CPM leaders said that Sivasankar was suspended as soon as the allegations surfaced

M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister. Credits: PTI Photo

Kerala Chief Minister's former principal secretary M Sivasankar has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a case related to the infamous gold smuggling related case.

The fresh development on Wednesday night will be a major embarrassment to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as Sivasankar was serving as secretary at CMO over the last four years and was involved in many key decision-making processes. Opposition parties Congress and BJP stepped up attack against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan demanding his resignation.

The High Court on Wednesday rejected his anticipatory bail applications in connection with probes by ED and Customs against him and Enforcement Directorate officials swiftly took him to Kochi from an Ayurveda hospital in Thiruvananthapuram where he was under treatment.

Sivasankar was quizzed at ED office in Kochi till night and subsequently, his arrest was recorded. He is likely to be produced before a magistrate by tomorrow.

The ED had earlier registered a case against the accused in the gold smuggling case. Sivasankar's nexus with the gold smuggling racket was mainly through the former employee of the UAE consulate in Kerala, Swapna Suresh, who is a key accused of smuggling gold using diplomatic baggage. The Customs and Enforcement directorate were learnt to have received solid evidence for Sivasankar's nexus with Swapna in managing illegal wealth by introducing a chartered accountant for her, pressurising a bank manager to give US dollars to Swapna in exchange of Indian rupees.

Sivasankar being a Man Friday of Vijayan for over four years and handling all crucial files at the CMO, Opposition parties alleged that any actions like arrest against Sivasankar were as good as acting against the Chief Minister itself. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the investigations would lead to the Chief Minister and hence Vijayan should quit the post immediately. Opposition parties staged violent demonstrations at various parts of the state.

The Chief Minister was yet to comment on the matter, while CPM leaders maintained that Sivasankar was placed under suspension as soon as the allegations against him surfaced.

Sivasankar, an IAS officer of 1995 batch, was handpicked by Vijayan as his secretary as soon as he took over as the Chief Minister in 2016. He was also holding the Information Technology department principal secretary post. He was suspended from service in July after the allegations surfaced.

Sivasankar sought anticipatory bail after ED and Customs quizzed him for several hours and he failed to give convincing replies to many queries. The investigation agencies even told the court, while opposing his bail plea, that he misused official position to help gold smuggling accused and his direct involvement in the illegal activities could be even suspected. Considering these the court rejected the anticipatory bail plea.

Though Customs reportedly made steps to arrest Sivasankar on October 16 after summoning him, he complained of discomfort on the way and was hence hospitalised. The central agencies had expressed doubts over his illness, though hospital authorities maintained that he was having disc ailments.

Sivasankar was placed under suspension after a panel headed by chief secretary Vishwas Mehta reported that Sivasankar violated service rules. He allegedly facilitated the appointment of Swapna in Space Park under the Information Technology department.