Published On: Tue, Jul 14th, 2020

Kerala CM’s former secretary appears before Customs in gold smuggling case

Thiruvananthapuram: IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was sacked as principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, appeared before customs officials here on Tuesday after being summoned in connection with the sensational gold smuggling case.

The Customs Department on Tuesday questioned Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar in the gold smuggling case.

He appeared before them at around 5 PM, shortly after being served notice by a three-member team of Customs officials at his homeat nearby Poojappura. The notice to the officer, who has gone on a year long leave after his name emerged in the case, asked him to cooperate in the probe, sources privy to the development said.

Asked whether action would be taken against the official in the backdrop of the Customs summoning him, Vijayan said a panel headed by Chief Secretary Dr Vishwas Mehta was probing the charges against the bureaucrat and action would be taken, if he was found guilty. “As of now, there are no grounds for suspension.His phone records now show that he had contacts with the woman accused in the gold smuggling matter.

The recent reports also reveal that he had links with another accused in the same matter. The panel headed by the Chief Secretary is looking into the charges and if proved, we will take action,” Vijayan said.

The Commissionerate of Customs (Preventive) here is probing whether Sivasankar, also removed as IT secretary, had used his office to provide any help to the key accused Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Sarith, the sources said.

A three-member team of Customs officials at the residence of M Sivasankar (former principal secretary to the Chief Minister and IT secretary) to serve him a notice to appear for questioning in connection with the ongoing probe in the gold smuggling case. (ANI)

The government had removed Sivasankar as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and also IT Secretary after allegations surfaced that he had links with the woman accused in the case related to the attempt to smuggle gold through diplomatic baggage using the name of a person in the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Customs seized the gold, weighing over 30 kg and valued at around Rs 15 crore on July 5. The National Investigation Agency hasbeen entrusted with the probe into the case by the Centre.

Meanwhile, Vijayan also dismissed the allegation against Minister K T Jaleel that he had contacted the woman accused in the case. “The minister had explained the circumstances under which he contacted her.

The phone calls were related to a UAE consulate-related matter,” the Chief Minister said. Earlier, there were media reports showing phone records of Swapna in which she had contacted Jaleel a couple of times. “Yes, on May 27, I received a message from the UAE Consular General, enquiring about donation of food kits on behalf of the Consulate.

They earlier used to donate food kits during Ramzan time. But this year, due to covid protocol, it was not possible. So the Consular General asked me whether I could arrange for the distribution of the food kits,” Jaleel said.

The minister also released a screenshot of the message sent by the Consular General, in which the top UAE official in India tells him that Swapna,who was his secretary,will contact Jaleel for further communication with regard to the donation.

“I replied to the Consular General that it could be arranged through Consumerfed (Kerala State Co-operatives Consumers Federation Ltd) at Edappal and we received around 1,000 food kits for distribution. The bill for the food kits were generated in the address of the Consular General and sent there.
And Yes, I had to contact the Secretary for clearing the bill. You can see how long the phone calls to the woman lasted,” Jaleel said. The documents on the phone calls showed eight made between the minister and the woman, which lasted a couple of minutes.

PTI

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