Gold smuggling case suspect claims ‘vested interests’ seek his arrest, gets reprieve
ED suspects that Sivasankar was aware of Swapna Suresh’s illegal activities.Updated: Oct 15, 2020, 14:32 IST
The Kerala high court on Thursday stayed the arrest of former secretary to the chief minister M Sivasankar, a senior Indian administrative service officer, till October 23 in the gold smuggling case.
Sivasankar was grilled for more than 90 hours in the last three months and he moved the court on Wednesday fearing arrest by the enforcement directorate (ED). Once a powerful officer close to CM Pinarayi Vijayan, he was suspended in July after his alleged liaison with one of the main smuggling accused, Swapna Suresh, came to light.
In his bail application, the IAS officer alleged an intense media trial was on and every time he appeared before the central agencies, distorted facts were put out in the media to portray him in a bad light. He said probe agencies were also under pressure due to mounting allegations and he feared arrest. He claimed, while he was fully cooperating with the investigation, agencies are now under pressure to arrest him to satisfy some vested interests.
But the ED made it clear that it was yet to take a decision on his arrest. Later the court directed the ED to submit details of his questioning and stayed his arrest till October 23.
During the investigation, the ED claimed to have found that the IAS officer had made several foreign trips including some made without seeking official permission. It also suspects that he was aware of the questionable integrity of Swapna Suresh, the main accused, and still went out of his way to help her.
However, Sivasankar has maintained that Suresh was only a friend and he was not aware of her smuggling activities. He said he came close to her when she was serving as the secretary of the United Arab Emirates consulate in the state capital.
The smuggling case surfaced on July 5 after 30 kg of gold was seized by the customs from a package camouflaged as diplomatic consignment marked to UAE consulate.
Later P Sarith Kumar, a former employee of the consulate who came to receive the luggage, was arrested by the customs after the recovery of 30 kg gold hidden inside bathroom fittings found in the baggage. Two other suspects, Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru five days later. Sivasankar was suspended after his alleged links with Suresh surfaced. Now, a multi-agency team is probing the case and 30 people have been arrested.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had told a court in Kochi that it suspected that some of the accused in the smuggling case were in touch with the gang of Dawood Ibrahim, since they visited Tanzania (Africa) several times where the fugitive terrorist has an extensive network. The agency made this claim when the accused challenged the application of provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the smuggling case. They contended that smuggling comes under economic offence and no terror angle was involved. But the NIA opposed it saying some of them have links with anti-national forces.