Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former principal secretary, M Sivshankar and other officials in the chief minister's office (CMO) were well aware of the gold smuggling activities, Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday confirmed to the principal sessions court in Kochi.
The ED has named the CMO in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case for the first time.
"The CMO was also aware of the other electronic items that were smuggled through diplomatic channels," admitted Swapana Suresh, one of the two key accused who was taken into custody by the National Investigation Agency in Bengaluru in July. Her confession was in an affidavit submitted by the agency.
The team questioned Suresh at the Attakulangara Jail in Thiruvananthapuram. The team also confronted her with WhatsApp messages exchanged between her and Sivasankar. She confirmed that CMO played a vital role in the crime. M Sivasankar was aware of kickbacks in many government projects such as LIFE mission and KFON, including the ones given by Unitac Builder to Suresh and her associates, she added.
"Sivasankar shared confidential information with Suresh relating to many key projects. There could be possible kickbacks to certain private parties. It is no coincidence that he knows all main accused in the gold smuggling case," the remand statement as quoted.
She also admitted on record that the cash amount of ₹1 crore that NIA had seized, was meant for the former principal secretary, reported The Hindustan Times.
The court extended Sivsankar's custody by one more day. Last week, the agency had summoned CM's additional secretary, Raveendran, but he could not appear as he tested positive for COVID-19. According to the report, Raveendran was summoned based on the statements given by Sivasankar and Suresh.
On July 5, 30kg of gold valued at around ₹15 crores was seized by the Customs Officials from a diplomatic cargo addressed to a person in the UAE Consulate, at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Couriers that are granted diplomatic immunity enjoy exemptions from arrest and detention from the receiving state, however, this consignment was confiscated after receiving specific inputs, The Indian Express reported.
Following, Sarith Kumar, who worked at the UAE Consulate and was booked, and disclosed told the Customs about Swapna Suresh's role, Sandeep Nair, an ex-Consulate employee working as the manager of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited.
The NIA took over the case on July 9 and confiscated a bag containing documents of financial dealings. The case then got a political highlight when senior IAS official M Sivasankar was removed from his post as principal secretary to CM, over his role in hiring Suresh.