Kerala CM’s secretary M. Sivasankar removed over gold smuggling controversy

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The Kerala government on Tuesday, July 7, removed M. Sivasankar from the post of principal secretary to the chief minister, after his name emerged in a gold smuggling case related to the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

Mir Mohammad, Suchithwa Mission executive director, has been appointed in his place. Sivasankar, who has been holding the additional post of IT secretary, has gone on long leave soon after he was asked to relinquish the post of the CM’s principal secretary.

Chief Minister Pinarai Vijayan came under pressure to remove Shivshankar after the Customs probe into the smuggling of 30 kilogram gold worth over Rs.13 crores through diplomatic channel found Swapna Suresh, whom Shivshankar appointed under an IT wing in the CM’s office, as the key suspect.

The investigation revealed that Swapna, who had worked at the UAE consulate office in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, had allegedly smuggled gold using the diplomatic immunity with the help of former consulate Public Relations Officer Sarith Nair.

While Sarith has already been arrested, Swapna is on the run. Sarith reportedly told the customs investigators that they had smuggled gold similarly eight times before. They were caught this time after a customs officer got tips regarding the smuggling and opened the diplomatic bag sent in the name of a consulate official opened it with the permission of the concerned authorities.

Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that Shivshankar, in his role as IT secretary, was involved in making calls to the customs department to clear diplomatic package that was smuggling gold. Sivasankar was accused of shielding Swapna Suresh.

Sivasankar was previously criticised for his role in hiring American firm Sprinklr for analysing public data related to COVID-19.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has termed the government decision to remove Shivshankar from the post of CM’s principal secretary as a smokescreen. He said that the chief minister, who had earlier feigned ignorance about the appointment of Swapna, had made Shivshankar a scapegoat in order to stall the inquiry reaching the CM’s office.

Image Credit: Mathrubhumi News 

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