Meanwhile, the Special Court in Kochi remanded Sivasankar in judicial custody till November 26.

M Sivasankar IAS in vehicle with ED officialsPTI
news Gold smuggling Thursday, November 12, 2020 - 18:58

Suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar who is arrested by the Enforcement Directorate probing the gold smuggling case has raised questions about the agency's claims against him. Sivasankar has asked how the agency could connect the bank locker which they have said he helped open for Swapna Suresh, a key accused, in 2018 with the gold smuggling which is found to have opened in 2019. The Special Court considering the case has also pointed out the contradictions in ED's claims against Sivasankar.

Sivasankar was arrested by the ED which is probing the money laundering angle in gold smuggling, on allegations that he helped Swapna open a bank locker in which she allegedly kept proceeds of the crime. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) which seized Rs 64 lakhs from this particular locker in the State Bank of India branch in Thiruvananthapuram, had also alleged that this could be proceeds of gold smuggling.

As per ED's earlier statements in the court, the locker was opened in the joint name of Swapna Suresh with Chartered Accountant P Venugopal as per Sivasankar's instruction in mid 2018. P Venugopal, a witness in the case, has made this allegation along with Swapna. But Sivasankar's claim is that he introduced the Chartered Accountant only asking to help Swapna open bank deposits.

Meanwhile, ED had also said that Swapna told that the plan to smuggle gold through diplomatic channels was set in June 2019 and that the racket started smuggling in July onwards. This  has been questioned by Sivasankar asking how opening a bank locker in 2018 and smuggling which was planned a year later was linked.

"How can this be linked to gold smuggling..Swapna has been in the custody of investigation agencies for the past four months, she would have given a statement against him in that stress" Sivasankar's counsel said in court.

Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate has also made a starking contradiction in its claims about the source of money seized from Swapna's bank locker.

On Wednesday, ED told the special court in Kochi that Rs 1 crore from two lockers of Swapna (including Rs 64 lakhs from locker allegedly Sivasankar helped to open), seized by NIA was part of the kickback received as part of helping contractors bag Life Mission project. The agency further alleged this was meant for Sivasankar. This is in contrast to the earlier ED statement and NIA statement that the money was proceeds of gold smuggling.

Reportedly, the court has also pointed out this contradiction of ED and said that the agency's claim that it was Life Mission kickback which was confiscated from Swapna's bank locker contradicts the case itself.

"This will not come under the purview of money laundering. The ED's allegation that kickback was received in other projects also will not come under this case" said the court.

There were already allegations from the part of the ruling CPI (M)'s circles that ED was trying to implicate discrepancies in state governments projects. Meanwhile, the special court in Kochi remanded Sivasankar in judicial custody till November 26 and has been sent to District Prison in Kakkanad.

Read all the details about Gold Smuggling case here:

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

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