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Kerala gold smuggling: Sivasankar in ED custody

The suspended IAS officer who was undergoing treatment in the hospital was brought to the ED office in Kochi for interrogation. His arrest would be registered later, it is learnt.

Statesman News Service | Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi |

M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has been taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from a private Ayurveda hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, minutes after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by Kerala High Court in the sensational gold smuggling case, as the Opposition mounted pressure on the CM demanding his resignation over the matter.

The suspended IAS officer who was undergoing treatment in the hospital was brought to the ED office in Kochi for interrogation. His arrest would be registered later, it is learnt.

Earlier in the day, Kerala High Court denied anticipatory bail to Sivasankar, in the cases registered by the ED and the Customs Department in relation to the case.

The court said considering the gravity of the offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the applicant may not be entitled to the extraordinary relief of pre-arrest bail.

The single bench of Justice Ashok Menon observed that Sivasankar was in constant contact with one of the prime accused, Swapna Suresh, and that he had even volunteered to help her by contacting his Chartered Accountant and asking him to assist her in managing her finances.

“This indicates that there is a fair possibility that applicant knew about Swapna’s involvement in the alleged smuggling activity. Whether the applicant was himself actively involved in the commission of the offence is something which is to be investigated and found out,” the court said.

Earlier on 16 October, an attempt by the Customs to take Sivasankar into custody from his home in Thiruvananthapuram led to dramatic scenes. He complained of chest pain and was shifted to a private hospital. He was later shifted to Thiruvananthapuram medical college hospital, where he was discharged as a medical board which looked into his health did not find major complications. Meanwhile, he moved anticipatory bail applications in Kerala High Court and secured interim protection from arrest till 27 October.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala demanded chief minister Vijayan’s resignation, stating he has lost the right to continue in office.

Talking to reporters at Cantonment House in Thiruvananthapuram, Chennithala said the corrupt practices were led by none other than Pinarayi Vijayan and that he should be grilled by the investigation team.

“Sivasankar is only a symptom. The CM is the real disease. The Opposition was ridiculed for raising allegations on deals, including Sprinklr. But many corruption cases committed by Sivasankar as directed by the chief minister will come out one by one,” he said. KPCC president Mullapally Ramachandran said Sivasankar being taken into custody is almost the same as the chief minister being taken into custody and that the CM should resign from his post.

BJP leader and Union minister of state for external affairs,V Muraleedharan said chief minister Vijayan should resign for the sake of his government and party without waiting to face more disgrace. “BJP does not think that the case will conclude wi th Sivasankar,” said Muraleedharan.

BJP former state president P K Krishnadas said the CM is the first accused in the case and the government is trying to block CBI probe in the state as it is fearing that the probe will reach the CPI-M leaders.

Protests were held at various parts of the state, including in front of the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, by Opposition parties and their youth wings demanding the resignation of the chief minister.

The protesters even burnt the effigy of Vijayan in some places.

Central agencies ~ National Investigation Agency, Customs and the Enforcement Directorate ~ are conducting separate inquiries into the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from a “diplomatic baggage” at Thiruvananthapuram International airport on 5 July.