KOCHI: A series of questionable WhatsApp conversation involving M Sivasankar probably nailed Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s most trusted aide.
The messages unearthed by the investigators said to have indicated that former principal secretary Sivasankar was overseeing money transactions of Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case. “17.5 (12+4+1.5) will be sent to her and 1.5 kept for SBI,” read a WhatsApp message sent by Thiruvananthapuram-based chartered accountant P Venugopal, to which Sivasankar replied “OK.”
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also presented Swapna’s statement along with WhatsApp chat details before the High Court in a sealed cover. It was also revealed that all conversations with the CM were only for official purposes. “I was asked by the CM of Kerala to provide assistance to his wife while meeting the princess of Sharjah when she arrived in Kerala,” Swapna’s statement said. It also revealed that the CM had conveyed condolences at the demise of Swapna’s father using Sivasankar’s phone.
The court came down heavily on the IAS officer on Wednesday while dismissing his anticipatory bail petition. The court said Sivasankar was in constant contact with Swapna and that he had even volunteered to help her by contacting his chartered accountant Venugopal and asking him to assist her in managing her finances.
Chats with CA continued even after Swapna’s arrest
The High Court said there is a “fair possibility that Sivasankar knew about Swapna’s involvement in the alleged smuggling activity”. Whether Sivasankar himself was actively involved in the commission of the offence is something which has to be investigated and found out, the court said.
The WhatsApp chat record submitted by the ED to the court proved crucial as it revealed the senior IAS officer requested Venugopal to advise Swapna on financial matters. In another chat, on November 28, 2018, Venugopal said: “Sir the amount is 35. So it will be done separately. FD for 30 should be ok.” Minutes later, Sivasankar responded: “Ok.”
“I will also come to your place by 3.30-3.40pm,” said another message.On the same day, at 4.01pm, Venugopal texted: “Kept in locker in her presence at 2pm.” Sivasankar responded to it with a “Thanks”. A few hours later, Venugopal asked: “Sir, can you call me when nobody is in your room and when you are free?” Sivasankar replied, “Ok.”Four months later, on January 11, 2019, Venugopal sent a message: “There is a flat which will be ready for occupation.” Sivasankar responded, “Let me talk to her.”
When the ED asked Sivasankar about these chats, Sivasankar feigned ignorance, the agency told court. It said he claimed that he is not sure whether messages were written by him or forwarded by someone. His responses helped the ED argument in court that Sivasankar was not cooperating and custodial interrogation is necessary to collect more evidence against the bureaucrat.
What could also have proved very costly for Sivasankar were the mirror chats between him and Venugopal which took place after Swapna was arrested.“Just be quiet. If possible, just leave the city and be in Nagercoil or so,” Sivasankar had advised him. “At best they may arraign you as a witness,” Sivasankar told him in the chat while trying to calm the chartered accountant.Sivasankar also asked: “Hope there are no issues on the professional front.”