Kerala Gold Smuggling: Named Accused for Refusing to Name Political Targets of ED, Says Vijayan Ex-Aide

In additional arguments to his bail plea, suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar on Monday alleged that he was arraigned as an accused and arrested after he refused to give in to the pressure imposed on him by the Enforcement Directorate to name a few political targets of their choice. The special court for economic offences will hear and likely pronounce its verdict on Sivasankar’s plea on Tuesday, November 17.

Sivasankar, the former principal secretary to the Chief Minister of Kerala, was arrested on October 28 by the ED probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case.

His bail plea stated that there were contradictions in the ED’s arguments related to proceeds of crime. “In the arrest order issued on October 28, 2020, ED claims that Sivasankar had accepted in his statement that he has spoken to senior Customs officer and made request as per the wishes of Swapna Suresh.Till date, ED has not made any claim/statement regarding the nature of communication made by Sivasankar or to whom Sivasankar spoke. Not a single averment is made in this regard before this court,” it said.

Sivasankar alleged that this ambiguity was purposely created and maintained by the ED so as to prevent the court from understanding the true facts. He said that it was evident from the chats that he had no role in the locker as well as cash kept in the locker and that he had only introduced Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the case, to the chartered accountant.

He also stated that misleading extracts from his conversation with Suresh over WhatsApp, without fully stating the context and full text of messages exchanged between them, was presented by the ED to create a smokescreen and mislead the court.

He also termed the allegations regarding kickbacks received in ‘Life Mission’ projects as baseless. Sivashankar held charge as the CEO of the mission for a short period during 2018 and 2019 which was before the timeline in which the contract was signed. Therefore, there was no reason why anyone would offer kickback in these projects to the applicant (Sivashankar), he said.

He also said that Suresh’s statement to the ED on November 10 could not be relied upon.

“NIA had earlier found that the money recovered and seized from Swapna’s locker by NIA was proceeds of crime from smuggling activities which happened during the period November, 2019 to June, 2020. In the latest statement, she said that the money of more than Rs 1 crore, which was recovered from the her locker was kickback meant for bail Sivashankar in the Life Mission project handed to her by one Mr Khalid.. It has to be suspected that ED, for convincing Swapna to give such fabricated statement, might have lured her with a possible acquittal in the NIA case. This has to be read along with the fact that Swapna had, until November 10 (for more than 100 days into investigation), always maintained that applicant is innocent and had given many statements to the NIA, customs and ED to that effect,” he claimed.

Sivashankar, who was held in the money laundering case related to the smuggling of gold using Diplomatic channel, called himself a victim of the association.

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