A special court in Kochi extended the custody period of suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar to six more days with the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Meanwhile, the ED raised more allegations, stating that Sivasankar shared a lot of confidential information regarding certain state government projects with Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the controversial gold smuggling case.
The ED, while probing the alleged Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) offences in the gold smuggling case, had arrested Sivasankar on September 28 as the fifth accused in the case. Following the arrest, he has been in ED custody, with the custody period ending on Thursday. Citing that he needed to be interrogated again as he was evading many key questions, the ED sought seven more days of custody. The court granted an extension of six days.
In its plea in the court, the ED stated that the suspended IAS officer had shared confidential information regarding the state governmentâ€™s Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-FON), an ongoing project aiming to provide high-speed free internet across the state, and the Life Mission housing project for the poor, with Swapna Suresh.
â€śThe way Sivasankar was sharing confidential information pertaining to government projects indicates that he is part of the shady deal,â€ť the ED told the court. The ED also contextually cited Swapna receiving major kickbacks from the contractors of the Life Mission project in Thrissurâ€™s Wadakkanchery.
But as the ED cited it needed Sivasankar in custody to reveal more details about the government projects, the court reportedly asked the investigation agency how it is related to the present case under PMLA.
The ED stated that WhatsApp chats between Sivasankar and Swapna Suresh revealed that in April 2019 Sivasankar had intervened to clear diplomatic baggage from the airport for the accused. But as per the accusedâ€™s statement, it was only in July 2019 that they started smuggling gold through diplomatic channels. The ED in its plea said that it suspects that Aprilâ€™s consignment too might have contained smuggled gold or could have been a trial baggage.
The ED also said that apart from the key accused in the gold smuggling case â€“ Sarith PS, Swapna and Sandeep Nair â€“ Sivasankar also knew Khalid, a former Finance Head in the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, who is also alleged to have received hefty commissions from Life Mission project contractors. The ED said that while Sivasankar initially tried to mislead the agency by denying being acquainted with Khalid, he later accepted that he knew him.
â€śThis issue also needs to be investigated. The accused Sivasankar being a qualified and experienced senior administrative officer is using all tactics to mislead the investigation,â€ť the ED told the court.
Meanwhile, the court will consider Sivasankarâ€™s bail plea on November 11. It is also learnt that the court will on November 9 consider a plea from the Customs Department to name Khalid as an accused in the gold smuggling case.
Watch video of the smuggled gold seized by Customs: