NIA grills Kerala CM’s former aide for third time in gold smuggling case
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday questioned Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former secretary and senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, for eight hours in Kochi in the gold smuggling case before letting him off, a senior officer familiar with the probe said.
This is the third time he was questioned by the NIA but he hasn’t been given a clean chit, he said.
He was summoned after the NIA had retrieved some vital information from the phones and a laptop computer of one of the main accused Swapna Suresh which she had deleted before her arrest, the officer said.
The NIA had recently retrieved 2,000 GB data from four of her mobiles and computer and it wanted to cross-check some of the earlier statements given by both. He said both were questioned simultaneously.
Sivasankar, who was close to the CM, was suspended after his alleged proximity with Swapna Suresh surfaced.
Sivasankar came under the scanner after the seizure of 30 kg gold from a consignment that came in the name of an employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5. After the seizure, there were reports that some officials at the CM’s office allegedly pressurised the Customs department to release the consignment.
But Sivasankar reportedly told investigators that although he knew some of the accused including Swapna Suresh he was not aware of their smuggling background. There were also media reports that he was instrumental in appointing Suresh as a business development manager with the Kerala Information Technology Infrastructure Limited and he helped her arrange a room in an apartment outside the state secretariat which the accused allegedly used for smuggling activities.
After Swapna Suresh’s arrest in July, the Customs seized Rs one crore cash and two kg gold from her bank locker. Later it found that the locker was jointly operated by Sivasankar’s chartered accountant and Suresh. The chartered accountant reportedly told the NIA that he was asked to do so by Sivasankar.