New disclosures in Kerala scams point to CM Vijayan’s office

Kochi: New disclosures in the probe into the gold smuggling-Life Mission scams are pointing to the involvement of M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary and once-confidant of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Life Mission CEO UV Jose has deposed to the CBI about the involvement of Sivasankar in the award of the contract to the controversial company Unitac, which paid commission to gold smuggling kingpin Swapna Suresh and others.

As such, the CBI has told the Kerala High Court, which is hearing petitions challenging the investigation by the central agency into the alleged irregularities in the Life Mission project, that the entire conspiracy had the involvement of the underworld responsible for the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel.

UV Jose has claimed that he came to know about the award of the contract to Unitac only when the company sent an amended project report, which had originally been prepared by Habitat India. He said that the CM’s former aide intervened in favour of awarding the contract to Unitac.

Countering the objections raised by the state government as well as Unitac against the CBI probe, counsel for the investigating agency told the court that the conspiracy needs to be investigated further, including the role of Sivasankar.

The state government had argued that Life Mission had nothing to do with the transaction and as such it will not fall under the purview of the foreign contributions law, which has allegedly been violated, as per the CBI case, in the acceptance of foreign funds without authorisation.

The CBI, however, argues that the Swapna Suresh-led underworld hatched a conspiracy to siphon off aid provided by a foreign agency, which was meant to build houses for the poor.

The state Vigilance, which is also probing the case parallelly, on Thursday quizzed the Life Mission CEO for five hours, during which the state government officer revealed the intervention of Sivasankar. He claimed that Sivasankar had called several times, asking for assistance to Unitec.

The opposition UDF has resumed its agitation for the resignation of the chief minister in view of Wednesday’s disclosure in the Enforcement Directorate charge-sheet that the appointment of Swapna Suresh in the IT department was with the knowledge of the chief minister.

New claims by the CBI in the court puts further light on the possible involvement of the chief minister’s office through his former principal secretary in the twin scams.

The chief minister has skipped his daily briefing for the past two days, which observers have interpreted as tactics to avoid the media.

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