Kerala chief minister’s office knew about gold smuggling: Probe agency
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s private secretary M Sivasankar and some officials at the CM’s office were aware of smuggling activities, the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday informed the special court in Kochi. This is the first time the central agency has named the CM’s office in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case.
The ED said the main accused in the smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, had divulged this information during her interrogation.
Last week the ED had summoned Raveendran, CM’s additional secretary, but he could not appear after he tested positive for Covid-19. According to officials, who are part of the multi-agency probe, Raveendran was summoned on the basis of the statements of Sivasankar and Suresh. A party leader from Kannur (north Kerala), Raveendran was very close to the CM and served under many ministers earlier.
In the remand statement, the ED also said Sivasankar was aware of the kickbacks in many dream projects of the government like Life Mission and KFON. He also leaked out vital project details and other information to firms which vied for the projects, the ED added.
“Sivasankar shared confidential information with Suresh relating to many key projects. There could be possible kickbacks to certain private parties. It is no coincidence that he knows all main accused in the gold smuggling case,” the statement said.
The latest report will invite trouble for the CM’s office which distanced from Sivasankar after his arrest. It said “Sivasankar and some officials at the CM team were fully aware of illegal activities”.
Later the court extended his custody for one more day. His bail plea is coming up before the court on November 12.
While investigating the gold smuggling case, probe agencies came across alleged irregularities and commissions in some other projects also. When Sivasankar was arrested on October 28, the government quickly distanced itself from him but in Raveendran’s case it will be difficult for the party to drop him. Besides the government, the party is also in big trouble after the arrest of secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri in connection with the Bengaluru drugs case.
While opposition parties stepped up pressure for the CM’s resignation, the ruling CPI(M) said it was a move aimed at destabilising the government.
“It proved beyond doubt that the CM office was reduced to a den of smugglers and racketeers,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. But the ruling party came down heavily on central agencies. “It is a political move aimed at stalling developmental projects in the state,” said party leader A Vijayaraghavan.
The smuggling case came to light on July 5 after seizure of 30 kg smuggled yellow metal from a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic consignment. A multi-agency team headed by the NIA is probing the case and 34 people have been arrested so far.