Customs arrest suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar in Kerala gold smuggling case
The Customs department on Tuesday formally arrested suspended senior bureaucrat M Sivasankar, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary, in connection with the sensational gold smuggling case.
Currently in judicial custody in connection with money laundering charges related to smuggling, Customs said in the custody report that he was aware of the gold smuggling through the UAE consular office and he often helped some of the accused. He was suspended from service after his alleged liaison with main accused in the smuggling case Swapna Suresh surfaced. Last month the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had arrested him under the prevention of money laundering act.
After recording his arrest in Ernakulam district jail, Customs has moved an application for his custody. In the custody report it said it has got incriminating evidence suggesting his involvement in the crime. For the last three months, Sivasankar maintained that though he knew Suresh as a friend, he was not aware of her smuggling activities. Fifth accused in the ED case he will be made eighth accused in the smuggling case also, a senior Customs official said. A multi-agency probe led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing the gold smuggling, money laundering and related cases.
A powerful bureaucrat often touted as the CM’s blue-eyed boy, Sivasankar fell from grace after the smuggling case came to light. After main accused Swapna Suresh’s arrest from Bengaluru by the NIA, reports surfaced that he was allegedly close to her and travelled with her during some foreign trips.
Later, probe agencies also found that he was instrumental in getting her a good post in the government-controlled Space Park and allegedly helped her taking up a flat outside the state secretariat which was later used by smugglers. There are reports that he pressurized the Customs department to release the baggage after recovery of the gold.
The smuggling case surfaced on July 5 after seizure of 30 kg smuggled gold from a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage at the UAE consulate in the state capital. Later the CM had written to Prime Minister Modi seeking a central agency probe. The ED had summoned another senior official in the CM’s office C M Raveendran for questioning next week.