A day after suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar got hospitalised, first for cardiac distress and then for back pain, reportedly while enroute to Customs office, the earlier statements given by Sivasankar to various investigation agencies has surfaced. In his statement to the Enforcement Directorate, conducting a parallel probe into the gold smuggling case, Sivasankar has said that he was the point of contact between the United Arab Emirates Consulate and Kerala government since 2016.
Sivasankar said this to the ED while being quizzed in August, as a reply to the statement of Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case through diplomatic consignment. Swapna had earlier said that she met Sivasankar in 2017 and in one of the meetings of the UAE Consular General and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at his official residence, CM had âunofficially informed that Sivasankar would be the point of contact between UAE Consulate and state governmentâ.
On being asked about this, Sivasankar told ED that he was not aware about the meeting mentioned by Swapna but added that he was the point of contact between the Consulate and the Kerala government since 2016.
âThe actual fact is I was authorized by the CM of Kerala to act as the point of contact in early as June or July in 2016 itself as the issue of exemption of tax allowable to diplomatic missions was caught in bureaucratic delays in government, and CM did not want such incidents to spoil the relationship,â Sivasankar said.
âCM was not aware of Swapnaâs appointmentâ
Sivasankar also denied the statement of Swapna that her appointment to Space Park, the project under the IT Department of Kerala, was with the knowledge of CM Pinarayi Vijayan. Swapnaâs statement on this is not correct, he said.
â..Normally such short term project postings rarely are approved or made known to the government secretary concerned even much less the Minister in-charge,â Sivasankar added.
At the time Customs Department seized the smuggled gold Swapna, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, was a contract staff of Space Park. Sivasankar IAS was suspended after his links with Swapna Suresh and other accused persons in the case had surfaced.
In her statement to ED, Swapna had also mentioned an instance in April 2020 where she told Sivasankar that she will resign from the post in Space Park, after her relative allegedly tried to defame Sivasankar. But she says Sivasankar had told her that such a decision is not required as her relative had filed a fake case.
Swapna in her statement had added, âIf any such resignation decision has to be taken then he would inform me later as I have been posted with the knowledge of CM.â But Sivasankar has denied it too, stating that Swapna has not discussed resigning from Space Park.
Sivasankar took part in meeting with Red Crescent
It has also surfaced that before the United Arab Emirates based humanitarian group Red Crescent signed a contract with Life Mission for sponsoring its project in Thrissur, the representatives of the group had held a meeting with Sivasankar. He told the ED that he had participated in the meeting with the Red Crescent and UAE Consulate on behalf of the Kerala government.
Following the meeting, Sivasankar said he had briefed the results to Chief Minister Pinarayi and that he had agreed to the suggestion of Red Crescent funding for housing complexes for the poor. Sivasankar also told ED that no discussions were held about the fund to be invested or how it would be. According to Sivasanakar the meeting was solely to decide on which project the Red Crescent would provide capital following the Kerala floods, as the group had said they are not interested to donate to the Chief Ministerâs Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF).
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the alleged Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act violation in accepting funds from Red Crescent.
Differing statement on Swapnaâs resignation from UAE Consulate
In his statement to Customs Department in July, Sivasankar said that he was told by Swapna that she was removed from her post in UAE Consulate in last August, by the Consular General.
âShe told the Consular General had some suspicious financial dealings and she was the one aware of all that,â Sivasankar told Customs. He says she told him that the Consular Generalâs term was ending and that he did not want his successor to know about his âdealingsâ from Swapna, who was his close confidant.
Meanwhile, when ED quizzed Sivasankar the next month, he said he was not aware about the reasons why Swapna resigned from her job in UAE Consulate.
Had less contact with Swapna from 2018
Though Sivasankar had told both Customs and ED that he has had close contact with Swapna and her family since 2017, he adds that they had less contact since the Kerala floods of 2018. He said after the floods, he was caught up with work and hence spent much less time with them.
From the half of 2019, Sivasankar says he has been undergoing treatment for lower backache in 2019. âThis actually confined my activities till end of 2019, substantially my interactions with Swapna and her family also reduced..It came as a complete shock and surprise when it was reported she was a key accused in the gold smuggling case,â he added.