M Sivasankar, former principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was arrested late Tuesday night by the Enforcement Directorate, for his role in the Life Mission housing scam.
He was produced before the Ernakulam principal sessions judge which remanded him to five days' ED custody.
Sivasankar was arrested at the end of three days quizzing on the basis of disclosures made by Swapna Suresh, the kingpin in the case of gold smuggling through diplomatic channels. She had reportedly told the ED that the Rs 1 crore recovered from a bank locker belonged to Sivasankar by way of commission for awarding the contract for constructing Life Mission flats in Thrissur’s Vadakkancherry.
The flats were to be built with assistance from the United Arab Emirates. Santhosh Eapen, MD of Unitac, which won the contract, had told investigators that a commission of Rs 4.8 crore was paid to secure the deal.
This is the third arrest of Sivasankar, who was once considered the conscience keeper of the chief minister. Two of the arrests were in connection with the smuggling of gold and dollars through diplomatic channels during a Dubai tour of the chief minister.
Sivasankar had earlier been suspended from service after he was named in various cases, but the state government withdrew the suspension last year, following which he was appointed as principal secretary in the sports and youth welfare ministry. He retired from service on January 31 this year.
During his suspension he had authored a book in which he claimed that he was under pressure to name Vijayan in connection with the twin scams of dollar and gold smuggling.
During the first tenure in Vijayan’s ministry, Sivasankar was the key bureaucrat who played a key role in all the important schemes of the government. The so-called super-secretary had the mandate to interfere in the working of all departments and he exercised the power to the hilt.
The controversial Sprinklr deal with a US firm for the data management of Covid patients in the state, which had to be cancelled following an order of the Kerala High Court, was also his brain child. It was alleged that the deal was entered into at the behest of Veena Vijayan, the daughter of CM Vijayan, who was then running an IT company.
There were murmurs about his excessive authority even within the ruling party, but the CM brushed everything aside and stood by his trusted lieutenant.
But the government was forced to suspend him after it was revealed that he was instrumental in the appointment of Swapna Suresh, named one of the key accused in the gold smuggling case , to a top post in the IT department. She had earlier been working for the UAE consulate here as executive assistant to the consul general and was the key contact for the chief minister’s office in interacting with the consulate.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)