The Customs said that it has direct incriminating material against Sivasankar over his 'involvement' in the case.

Sivasankar wearing a mask and a blue T shirt is in a vehicle with other men
news Gold Smuggling Monday, November 23, 2020 - 16:49

On Monday, a special court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Kochi granted permission to the Customs Department to arrest suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar, who is currently in judicial custody, in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case. The court for PMLA allowed the prayer by the Customs Department, which claimed it has got direct incriminating material against Sivasankar over his 'involvement' in the sensational smuggling of gold using diplomatic channel.

Sivasankar, former principal secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is presently lodged in a jail after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case.

"The Customs, during the course of investigation has now been able to get direct incriminating material against Sivasankar of his involvement and being concerned in smuggling of gold illegally which is an offence under the Customs Act, 1962.

"It has, therefore, become necessary to subject him to custodial interrogation after arresting him. This is highly necessary for the smooth progress of the investigation," the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate said in its petition.

The Customs said it has arrested around 15 people, including prime accused Swapna Suresh, Sarith PS and Sandeep Nair, in connection with the seizure of 30 kg smuggled gold illicitly imported as diplomatic baggage of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5.

The agency said that it has now come to light that Sivasankar, who has been arrayed as fifth accused in the case registered by the ED, is also involved in the issue.

"However, the Customs is yet to determine the actual involvement. So he is now a suspected accused,” the Customs said in the petition.

The move by the Customs came days after Sivasankar moved the Kerala High Court seeking bail in the ED case after the Special Court for PMLA cases rejected his application for regular bail on November 17.

Declining bail, special court Judge Kauser Edappagath had noted that the investigation was at a crucial stage and the ED may require further time to collect all the materials, particularly related to the alleged nexus of the petitioner with the crime.

Meanwhile, BJP leader and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan claimed that there was no pressure from the Centre on the agencies investigating the Kerala gold smuggling case to get statements from the accused against CM Pinarayi. The statement comes after a recent voice clip, purportedly of Swapna Suresh, had surfaced, in which she reportedly said that the ED had pressurised her to give a statement against CM Pinarayi. Sivasankar too had told a special court that he was arrested for refusing to name 'political targets' of ED's choice.

(With PTI input)

Also read: The Kerala gold smuggling case and all its controversies: An exhaustive explainer

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