Suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar on Friday moved the Kerala High Court seeking bail in an Enforcement Directorate (ED) case related to money laundering charges in the gold smuggling racket. The officer, who was arrested by the ED on October 28 and is now in judicial custody, filed the bail petition two days after the Special Court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Kochi rejected his application for regular bail on November 17.
Declining bail, special court Judge Kauser Edappagath had noted 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. In his plea in the high court, the bureaucrat alleged that false and frivolous allegations have been levelled to the effect that he accepted kickbacks from different agencies and the money kept in the locker of Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the gold smuggling case, belonged to him.
The prosecution could not produce any material to substantiate its charges against him, the former principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan contended in his petition. Almost eight signed statements were recorded from Suresh in connection with the investigation of the PMLA case by the ED. In none of these statements, she implicated him or said he was aware of the gold smuggling, Sivasankar claimed.
The ED could not connect him with the predicate offence (money laundering) and after the special court questioned it, the agency to justify his arrest obtained a ninth statement from Suresh implicating him, the officer charged.
He alleged that the ED deviated from its main allegation and claimed that the money seized from the locker of Suresh was the kickbacks received from certain projects offered by the Kerala government in connection with the flood relief.
"That shows that they deviated from their initial case of predicate offence as smuggling of gold", Sivasankar said.
He also contended that the materials collected by the investigating agency was not enough to arrest him in terms of Section 19 of PMLA.
"The respondent (ED) did not comply with the procedure prescribed in the PML Act to arrest the accused. Multiple checks by senior officers are contemplated in the act but the arrest order did not show that they have complied with the procedure prescribed," he submitted.
The central agency, probing the money trail in the case, had earlier alleged that Suresh in a statement claimed that Sivasankar and his team in the CMO were fully aware of the smuggling of the precious metal through diplomatic channel.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the ED and the Customs are conducting separate investigations into the racket that was busted with the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from a diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5.
The IAS officer was suspended after his links to Suresh, a former employee of the consulate, surfaced.