ED alleges multiple offences against Sivasankar

Gold smuggling case: ED alleges multiple offences against Sivasankar

The ED has alleged that Sivasankar had intervened to clear the diplomatic baggage containing smuggled gold without examination by the Customs

Suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar being taken into custody by Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in connection to the Kerala gold smuggling case, in Kochi. Credit: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate, probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case, has alleged multiple offences against M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to the Chief Minister, arrested by it on Wednesday night in connection with the sensational case.

The National Investigation Agency, Customs and the ED are conducting separate investigations into the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from a "diplomatic baggage" of UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5.

The ED has alleged that Sivasankar had intervened to clear the diplomatic baggage containing smuggled gold without examination by the Customs at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport. Sivasankar was remanded to the agency's custody for seven days by a court here today.

In its arrest order, the ED has claimed that during his statement given to it on October 15, Sivasankar admitted to having spoken to a senior Customs officer and made the request as per the wishes of Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the gold smuggling case.

"This clearly shows your active involvement in the offences committed by Swapna Suresh," the ED said in the order.

The probe agency claimed that during its investigation, it was revealed that he was involved in the commission of a scheduled offence.

Read: Fall of a highly reputed IAS officer, M Sivasankar

"Whatsapp chats between Sivasankar and Swapna revealed that she has requested Sivasankar to intervene with the Terminal Manager/Airport Authority/Customs Authority for some work at the airport/ clearance of diplomatic baggage without examination by the Customs," it said.

The agency said this also amounts to misuse of public office and interference in the official working of other government departments.

It said analysis of WhatsApp chats is also indicative of the fact that Sivasankar, in his official capacity, might have called for the clearance of other diplomatic cargos as well including the ones containing smuggled gold because nobody could tell what was inside such diplomatic bags once cleared un-examined.

"It has been found that 21 consignments were sent between 2019 and 2020 and Sivasankar's involvement has helped in the commission of the offence.

This clearly shows that you (Sivasankar) knowingly assisted in the process of activity connected with the proceeds of crime and therefore committed the offence of money laundering," the ED said.

The agency on Thursday sought 14-day custody of the officer when he was produced before the Special PMLA court here. It said an investigation under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has revealed that a bank locker was hired in State Bank of India, Thiruvananthapuram City branch on November 30, 2018, jointly in the name of Swapna Suresh and his chartered accountant P Venugopal on the instructions of Sivasankar.

The ED said Venugopal has also admitted that Sivasankar wanted him to manage the finances of Swapna Suresh.

Venugopal has submitted Whatsapp messages to that effect. Further, during the search conducted by NIA, an amount of Rs 64 lakh was seized from this locker and Rs 36.50 lakh from another locker in Federal Bank, statue branch, Thiruvananthapuram.

This proceeds of crime were generated by Swapna Suresh with the active support of Sivasankar, the ED said.

When Sivasankar was confronted with these facts he remained evasive and non-cooperative, the agency said while seeking his custody. Granting his seven days custody to the ED, the court said the accused shall not be subjected to any sort of harassment or torture while in enforcement custody. He shall be given liberty to contact his lawyer and there shall be a break for one hour if interrogation continues for three hours, it said. The court also directed that the interrogation shall be done only from 9 am to 6 pm and there shall not be any interrogation at all after 6 pm.

He shall be allowed to take rest after 6 pm, it added. The court directed the investigating officer to ensure all medical assistance to Sivasankar and provide ayurvedic treatment to him for his back pain during the period of custody without disturbing the interrogation process. If necessary, he can be taken to the doctor even after 6 pm, the court said after Sivasankar complained to the judge about his disc prolapse issues. 

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