The link between the chief minister’s office (CMO) and gold smuggling through the diplomatic channel has come out in the open, with Swapna Suresh telling the Enforcement Directorate that former principal secretary M Sivasankar and his team in the CMO were aware of whatever was going on.
It has also been confirmed that the CMO intervened to get the detained bag containing the smuggled gold released from the Customs.
The explosive disclosure was made by Enforcement Directorate to the court in a sealed envelope in its plea to seek further custody of Sivasankar after the investigators questioned Swapna Suresh over the past two days in her jail.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been maintaining that Sivasankar’s involvement with the clandestine operation was in his personal capacity and nobody in the CMO had any connection with the racket.
The ED report to the court raises the vulnerability of the chief minister’s office in connection with the twin scams of gold smuggling and the state government’s Life Mission project, in which crores have been paid in commission. The coming days are expected to be crucial for the chief minister and his government as well as the ruling party.
ED is in possession of the names of people involved in the CMO, who are on its radar. Pinarayi’s private secretary and long term aide CM Raveendran was to be questioned last week, but he conveyed his inability to come saying he was down with Covid.
Swapna Suresh told ED that the rupees one crore plus seized from her bank locker, jointly opened with Sivasankar’s chartered accountant, actually belonged to the former confidant of the chief minister.
She also told them Sivasankar was involved in all the deals involving kickbacks or bribe and that the senior bureaucrat was in full knowledge of all the deals. In fact, it was Sivasankr, who fed her sensitive information relating to key upcoming projects so that they could strike the deals in advance.
Sivasankar was constantly in touch with the Egyptian citizen, who was allegedly paid about 2 lakh dollars as commission for the construction work awarded in the controversial housing project, as well as Santhosh Eapen, the owner of the construction company.
ED informed the court that it had sought details of four key projects of the state government, including the K-Phone internet and e-mobility projects, in which huge amounts were paid by way of kickbacks. The state government had objected to the ED demand, saying that the central agency was trying to scuttle important projects on behalf of its political masters.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala claimed that the ED report is a very serious matter as it exposes how the chief minister’s office had been turned into a hub for mafia operations. He said that Pinarayi Vijayan and party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan were trying to shield each other to keep the lid on all questionable deals.
Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri was on Tuesday remanded to judicial custody in Bengaluru in connection with havala and benami operations relating to the drug peddling case.