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Kerala gold smuggling: NIA summons CM’s ex-secretary again

12:42 AM Jul 29, 2020 | ANI

Kochi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday resumed the interrogation of former Kerala IT secretary M Sivashankar at its office in Kochi as part of the investigation into the gold smuggling case.

The questioning of Sivashankar began at 10:30 am. He was questioned by the probe agency on Monday for nine hours.

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This is the third time in the past one week that the senior IAS official is being questioned. On July 23, he was questioned for nearly five hours.

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According to the investigation, Sivasankar shared close proximity with the key accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sarith PS. Also, the probe revealed that he also had known Sandeep Nair the fourth accused in the case.

As the probe by Customs and NIA progressed, the revelation by the accused during interrogation that Sivasankar helped them to book a flat near secretariat turned the tables against the bureaucrat, who till his ouster was the face of Kerala IT department and was a powerful officer in Kerala Chief Minister's Office.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, when asked about his former principal secretary being questioned by NIA, said during a press meet: "I have told about this earlier. Some people are interested only in this matter. NIA is probing the case properly, as part of it they can reach anywhere. Let them travel in their path. I have reacted about all this earlier and there is no need to repeat it." The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had on Friday submitted before a special NIA court that around Rs 1 crore cash and 982.5 grams gold ornaments were seized from two bank lockers of accused Swapna Suresh, a former consultant with the state's IT department.

The matter, which pertains to the smuggling of gold in the state through diplomatic channels, had come to light after 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crores, smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage, was busted by customs in Thiruvananthapuram last month.

Vijayan govt is like Ali Baba and 40 thieves: Congress

Thiruvananthapuram: Stepping up its tirades against the ruling Left Front government led by Pinarayi Vijayan, the Congress-led UDF on Tuesday termed it as the legendary Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, who are out to rip off Kerala.

Speaking to the media here, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said never before has Kerala seen such a shameless government led by the most corrupt CM.

"The Home and the IT departments, both led by Vijayan have seen the worst ever corrupt practices. Back-door appointments are being done by appointing 'Faithfuls' in crucial high paying jobs, leaving the PSC with nothing to do. We demand that Vijayan quit and face a probe, as this government is similar to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," said Chennithala.

Chennithala pointed out that the epicentre of all corrupt practices is the office of the chief minister.

"Nowhere in the country has a state witnessed such a shameless situation, where the secretary to the CM and that too a senior IAS official who held crucial posts is being questioned by the NIA for three days and for numerous hours. How can such a CM continue," said Chennithala.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the Kerala gold smuggling case, questioned Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former principal secretary M. Sivasankar on Monday for several hours.

He said Vijayan has completed more than four years in office and right from the start his government has been caught in numerous corrupt practices.

"First the Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan had to quit after his relatives were appointed in key posts. Then came Vijayan's proposal to give licenses to distilleries and breweries and following our protest it was cancelled. The CAG had unearthed Rs 151 crore deal of the State Police headquarters and that's now before the PAC of the Kerala Assembly. The Sprinklr data controversy was another one and then came the illegal sand mining and few others," said Chennithala.

"None should forget that Kerala today is under 'Consultancy Raj'. For anything and everything consultants are hired and the classic example is the appointment of Louis Berger, an American consultancy firm which was asked to prepare a report for an airport at Pathanamthitta. Their report says they were not able to visit the site. This same firm has been given consultancy for building a road. This is a shame as we have very able officers and firms who are capable of doing this. Everything is being done through consultancies as anything is possible for engaging in back-door things," added Chennithala.

Chennithala said they are going to organise a state-wide protest on August 3, when all the MPs, MLAs, state leaders will sit in protest at their homes or offices and on August 10, similar protest would be held in 25,000 wards, when one person each would do the same and the demand is Vijayan has to quit and face a probe.

--IANS

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