Kerala govt may take action against M Sivasankar again in gold smuggling case

Feb 07, 2022 12:14 AM IST

The Kerala government also feels that the IAS officer has given an opportunity to central agencies to corner the government again.

After a brief respite the sensational gold smuggling case has returned to haunt the Kerala government. The disclosure of main accused Swapna Suresh that the CM’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar was “aware of her activities” and “he helped her in many ways including getting out of the state after the seizure of yellow metal” landed the state government in an embarrassing situation.

Kerala CM’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar was taken back into government service last month. (HT FILE PHOTO.)
Kerala CM’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar was taken back into government service last month. (HT FILE PHOTO.)

A senior official close to the government said disciplinary action will be initiated against the IAS officer again to get out of the mess. Under suspension for more than 18 months, Sivasankar, once touted as the blue-eyed boy of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, was taken back in service last month.

The government feels that Sivasankar unnecessarily raked up the issue and he did not even take permission to write his autobiography titled ‘Aswathamavu: Verum Oru Aana’ (Aswarthamavu is only an elephant) that is scheduled to hit stands next week. A Kottayam-based Malayalam literary magazine had carried excerpts of the book two days back which Swapna Suresh said forced her to speak up.

The Kerala government also feels that he has given an opportunity to central agencies to corner the government again. A senior officer of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Kochi said after collecting details the agency will move the high court to cancel the bail of Sivasankar. Senior officials of Customs and ED said most of her revelations were part of her written statement given to them earlier.

In her interview to news channels, Suresh alleged that she came in contact with Sivasankar in 2017 and in the next three years “he was part of her life and all her activities”. She also alleged that her two audio clips from the jail in which she said she was forced to name the CM by central agencies were also done at the behest of Sivasankar. In her latest revelations, she also said central agencies never forced her to take the name of the CM and it was a drama stage-managed by Sivasankar.

“He knew everything that happened and now he’s putting the whole blame on me. I will not allow this. Sivasankar used me, and now he has betrayed me also,” she said in interviews adding that his utterances hurt her more than one-and-a-half years’ jail time.

She also alleged that after the seizure of the gold from the United Arab Emirates consulate in July 2020 she was forced to leave the state and on her way to a Bengaluru hideout she had talked to Sivasankar twice over the phone.

The gold smuggling case came to light on July 5, 2020 when the Customs department seized 30 kg gold hidden in bathroom fittings in one of the consignments, camouflaged as diplomatic baggage, which had come in the name of the UAE consulate in the state capital. A former employee of the consulate P Sarith who came to receive the consignment was arrested the same day and after a week the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandeep Nair from their hideout in Bengaluru.

She also claimed in interviews that besides getting her a job in Space Park, Sivasankar also helped her former husband Jayashankar to get a job in K-Fon (a government owned company) and he was asked to quit after the case came up. She also admitted that money seized by the ED from her locker was part of the commission she got for clinching the Life Mission project. She also alleged that Sivasankar advised her to keep the money in a locker and asked her to open a joint account with his chartered accountant.

Life Mission was a project to build free dwelling units for homeless with the help of middle-east based charity organisation Red Crescent. When a locker of main accused Swapna Suresh was searched by investigating agencies they got two crore cash and two kg gold from it. Later she reportedly told agencies that this was the commission she received for clinching a deal with an international aid agency ‘Red Crescent’ which funded the Life Mission project in Vadakancherry in Thrissur district.

After her disclosure the opposition Congress and BJP hit out at the government saying their graft charges in Life Mission and other projects had been proved right. “Our charges proved correct and the money seized from the locker was bribe received in connection with Life Mission project. It is also clear that the CM’s office was aware of gold smuggling through the UAE consulate. The CM has no right to take a moral high ground now,” said opposition leader V D Satheesan.

The BJP has asked the government to expel Sivasankar from service immediately. “His role in the gold smuggling racket is clear now. Besides this he also helped the accused to flee from the state. Corruption in Life Mission project has also been established and he has no right to continue in service,” said party state president K Surendran.

The state government is yet to react over the latest controversy. The CM arrived in the state on Saturday night after his week-long tour in the UAE. Sivasankar also said he will not talk about the case now. But political observers said the issue dented the image of the government. “It is a big irony that the senior IAS officer has pushed the government to the firing range again,” said political observer A Jayashankar.

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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