Kerala CM’s former secretary’s arrest barred till Oct 28 in gold smuggling case
The investigating agencies have for the firs time alleged senior IAS officer’s direct involvement in the Kerala gold smuggling case.
The Kerala high court has barred the arrest of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former secretary M Sivasankar till it takes a final decision on his anticipatory bail petition on October 28. Two agencies probing the gold smuggling case, Customs and Enforcement Directorate, have opposed his bail petition.
The ED has claimed that the senior IAS officer was aware of the smuggling activities of main accused in the case Swapna Suresh and there were attempts to bail her out after the seizure of gold hidden in a bag camouflaged as a diplomatic baggage that came to the UAE consulate in the state capital. The agency has also accused Sivasankar of helping the main accused in money laundering. But Sivasankar has told the court that he was grilled for more than 90 hours and none of the agencies could implicate him in the case.
Customs argued before the high court that a person served notice under Section 108 of the Customs Act cannot move an application for anticipatory bail. It also said he pretended illness last week and got himself admitted to two hospitals to avoid further grilling by the probe team. This is the first time agencies are pointing out his direct role in the case. After hearing both sides, the court has posted the verdict for October 28 and directed the central agencies not to arrest him till then.
The sensational gold smuggling case surfaced on July 5 after 30 kg of yellow metal was seized by the customs from a package camouflaged as diplomatic consignment addressed to the UAE consulate.
Later P Sarith Kumar, a former public relations officer of the consulate who came to receive the luggage, was arrested by the customs. 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 so far. There are reports that smuggling was going on for more than a year through UAE consulate and they smuggled at least 400 kg gold in several consignments. Kerala high education minister K T Jaleel was also grilled in connection with one of the consignments that came in last March. But the minister said consignment carried only religious books.