Kerala gold smuggling case accused puts CM’s office in the dock in kickbacks

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The Enforcement Directorate has summoned CM’s additional private secretary C M Raveendran, a political appointee, and a cloe aide of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for questioning.

The high profile Kerala gold smuggling case has taken a new turn with a key accused in the case putting the Chief Minister’s office in the dock in not only smuggling but also in kickbacks involved in several flagship projects of the government.

In a remand report for the extension of the custodial remand of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar submitted in the Principal Sessions Court in Ernakulam on Wednesday, November 11, the Enforcement Directorate probing the money laundering angle of the smuggling case said that the CM’s office knew about the illegal activities.

The report also said that Sivasankar’s team in the CM’s office was involved in some of the corrupt practices. It said that Sivasankar, who was arrested last on October 28 in connection with the case, had received a commission of Rs.1 crore by awarding the contract for building a flat complex at Vadakkancherry in Thrissur district under the Life Mission project.

The report did not mention the name of any other officer. However, it has summoned CM’s additional private secretary C M Raveendran, a political appointee, for questioning last week. However, he did not appear before ED saying he had tested positive for Covid-19.

The report said that Sivasankar had helped two builders get over 30 projects under Life Mission project by passing on confidential tender details to Swapna Suresh, who was arrested after 30 kg of smuggled from Dubai in a diplomatic bag addressed to the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram ws seized by the Customs Department.

The ED said that Sivasankar, who was the most powerful officer in the CM’s office, had also passed details of several other projects, including prestigious Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) project, to Swapna with the aim of enabling her to take commission from them.

The ED said that Sivasankar was in contact with Santhosh Eappan of Unitac Builders and Developers, one of the contractors of the controversial Life Mission project in Wadakanchery, and that he wanted Santhosh to be part of some contracts under KFON and Life Mission projects.

It had earlier surfaced that gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair, Sarith PS and former UAE Consulate employee Khalid had allegedly received huge kickbacks as part of the project.

Sivasankar was arrested on October 28 soon after the High Court rejected his anticipatory bail petition. He had been in ED custody in Kochi, ever since then. Considering the fresh revelations, the special court extended Sivasankar' custody period, which ended on Tuesday, to one more day. The court will again consider the case on Thursday.

This is the first time that the investigation agency has put the CM’s office in the dock. The chief minister and his party have so far been saying that apart from Sivasankar none else from the CM’s office was involved in any wrong doings.

The fresh revelation has come as a huge embarrassment for the ruling coalition especially on the eve of the local body elections. The coalition will find it difficult to defend the CM’s office if the investigation reached to more people in the office.

Image Credit: Deccan Chronicle

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