KOCHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case, arrested Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar on Wednesday night, putting the Left government in a tight spot. The officers was questioned for more than 100 hours by various national agencies until now. The decision to arrest was taken at a review meeting chaired by ED Special Director Sushil Kumar at the agency’s Kochi office at 9.30pm, following a six-hour interrogation.
The review meeting was attended by five ED officials and the agency’s prosecutor T A Unnikrishnan. Around 10.05pm, the arrest was recorded under Section 19 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Sivasankar will be produced at the residence of the judge for Special Court for PMLA cases at 10am on Thursday. “It is found that there are enough grounds to arrest him for money laundering activities. We have sufficient evidence and the statements of witnesses against him,” an ED official said.
The ED claims that `30 lakh kept in the joint locker started by Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the case, and chartered accountant P Venugopal in 2018 was black money and that Sivasankar helped her in money laundering. Similarly, the agency suspects that Sivasankar was aware of Swapna’s dubious activities, including her gold smuggling deals. The customs, which is probing the gold smuggling case, too questioned him regarding his links with Swapna and fellow accused duo, Sarith P S and Sandeep Nair.
Sivasankar gets notice at Cherthala during lunch
Customs is also probing Sivasankar’s role in the case related to smuggling out $1.94 lakh by an Egyptian employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram last year. Customs suspects that Sivasankar helped Swapna in arranging dollars for the Egyptian.The ED team from Kochi visited the private ayurveda hospital in Thiruvananthapuram where Sivasankar was undergoing treatment and served a notice on him to appear before the agency for questioning.
Customs served a notice on Sivasankar for interrogation at a hotel in Cherthala when he was having lunch along with ED officials on his way to Kochi from Thiruvanan-thapuram.Meanwhile, protests erupted in Kochi after the High Court dismissed anticipatory bail plea of Sivasankar. Though the police had barricaded the ED office, five KSU activists jumped its compound wall and shouted slogans. The police arrested them and removed from the area. BJP workers also took out a protest march in Kochi.