KOCHI: Despite questioning for close to 25 hours over three separate days, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) failed to get any clear-cut evidence from M Sivasankar — the chief minister’s former secretary — regarding his involvement in the smuggling of gold from the UAE through the diplomatic channel. Sivasankar was sent home, with Tuesday’s interrogation alone lasting for ten-and-a-half hours.
The NIA sources said the statements of accused persons Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Sarith P S about their close relationship with Sivasankar were presented before the bureaucrat. Similarly, digital evidence including call-data records and messages sent via WhatsApp and Telegram from the other accused were also verified.“We couldn’t get enough evidence about his direct involvement in the gold smuggling to arraign him. If any concrete evidence surfaces, he’ll be called ag,” said an official.
‘Gold brought in from abroad multiple times via airports, seaports’
Monday’s interrogation had lasted for nine hours and Tuesday’s session started at the NIA office at 10am. The NIA officers reached at 9am while Sivasankar, who stayed at a hotel in Kochi overnight, turned up at 9.45am. The interrogation ended at 8.30pm and Sivasankar left for Thiruvananthapuram in his personal car. He was earlier questioned by the agency for five hours in Thiruvananthapuram on July 23.
Sivasankar’s advocate S Rajeev said the NIA is yet to issue any notice for further questioning. “He has signed on the recorded statement compiled by the NIA. The probe is in its initial stage, they can collect evidence and conduct further investigation. The agency officials may take further decisions based on the progress of the investigation,” said Rajeev. The lawyer added the agency can question Sivasankar as many times it wants.
“Agencies can take hours to question any witness. We feel it’s long because we’re focusing on this one person. Questioning of normal citizens also takes such long hours,” said the advocate. The NIA believes the smuggling was carried out with the involvement of influential persons. This was stated in a report the agency had filed when first accused Sarith was produced at the NIA court last week.
“The investigation so far has revealed that the accused had sourced gold in large quantities from abroad on multiple times through various airports and seaports in India, especially in Kerala. Initial investigation points towards a larger conspiracy consisting of highly influential people in India and abroad behind the case and the racket already transported gold in bulk quantities from the Middle East and sold it clandestinely to various people.
The accused earned lucrative profit from the illegal business and proceeds of smuggling could be used for terror funding,” the agency stated in the report. The report stated the investigation has to be conducted abroad. Meanwhile, the NIA received K T Rameez, the mastermind behind gold smuggling, into its custody for seven days. The NIA said he is one of the prime accused in this case and has to be interrogated to unearth the truth.