The Kerala High Court on Wednesday rejected the anticipatory bail petition of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar in the gold smuggling case, PTI reported. He was then taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate from a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.
Officials from the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate alleged that the suspended IAS officer was aware of the activities of key accused Swapna Suresh and opposed his bail petition, according to Hindustan Times
The Customs Department, meanwhile, alleged that Sivasankar had faked illness to avoid questioning in the case and got admitted to a hospital where his wife worked, NDTV reported.
Sivasankar, on the other hand, told the court that investigation agencies had not produced any incriminating material against him. He also expressed concern that the agencies may act under pressure, since there were constant demands for his arrest.
Opposition leaders demanded Vijayan’s resignation after Sivasankar was taken into custody, PTI reported. “Without further justifying Sivasankar, the CM [chief minister] should step down from the post,” Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said. “It was the chief minister’s office that made all the moves to protect the accused in the gold smuggling case.”
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kerala chief K Surendran said it was clear that Vijayan’s office had interfered in the case. “When the agencies question Sivasankar, more details will come out,” he said. “The court order has cornered the Left government in the state.”
He added: “As the investigation progresses, the involvement of the chief minister and his office will become clear”.
Kerala Law Minister A K Balan, meanwhile, said that the government supported the investigative agencies and wanted action against the accused.
Sivasankar was removed as Vijayan’s principal secretary in July after Opposition leaders questioned his alleged association with the accused.
The gold smuggling case
The National Investigation Agency, which is investigating the Kerala gold smuggling case, told a special court in Kochi earlier this month that it suspects two of the accused have links with Pakistan-based underworld terrorist Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. The central agency made the submission while strongly opposing the bail applications of all the seven accused in the case.
On July 22, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering complaint in the case. Suresh and another accused named Sandeep Nair were detained by the National Investigation Agency on July 11.
On July 5, gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by the Customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore. Officials found that former employees of the consulate, Swapna Suresh and Sarith Nair, were involved in the gold smuggling.
The customs department arrested Nair on the same day for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of the gold in diplomatic baggage from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.