ED hopes to nail down Sivasankar with Swapna’s disclosures

ED hopes to nail down Sivasankar with Swapna’s disclosures
Swapna Suresh, former principal secretary M Sivasankar.

Kochi: The Enforcement Directorate has reiterated before the Economic Offences Court here that bureaucrat M Sivasankar was the kingpin of all criminal acts linked to the gold smuggling case.

Most of the allegations of the ED are based on Swapna's statement given on November 11. While recording the statement of Swapna, the officials had confronted her with the WhatsApp messages exchanged with Sivasankar.

Main points raised by the ED

• Sivasankar shared confidential details related to K-FON and Life Mission projects with Swapna. Crucial information linked to the Life Mission Project was passed on to Swapna by Sivasankar.

• Sivasankar provided confidential information to Swapna regarding the Life Mission project before the opening of the bid in January 2020. This included the quotation given by two builders having high possibility of winning the contract. Of the 36 projects under Life Mission, 26 projects which figured in the WhatsApp messages, were received by these entrepreneurs

• Sivasankar was in regular touch with Santosh Eapen, the MD of Kochi-based Unitac Builders and Developers. He sought to award some contracts related to the K-FON and Life Mission projects.

• Swapna has disclosed names of certain people who were very close to Sivasankar. This includes a person who is involved in the Taurus Downtown real estate project at the Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram.

Meanwhile, further arguments will continue on Sivasankar's bail plea filed before the High Court in connection with the gold smuggling case registered by ED.

Justice Ashok Menon posted the case for December 8.

Supreme Court lawyer Jaideep Gupta who represented Sivasankar argued for over two hours. The arguments are not over yet. Additional solicitor general P Raju appeared for ED.

Sivasankar's lawyer said that those who had earlier stated that his client had contacted Customs officials at the behest of Swapna, had later retracted. Sivasankar declined to contact Customs assistant commissioner at the behest of Swapna in July. The court sought to know if there are any statements from Customs officials to suggest that Sivasankar had called them on her behalf.

Arguments from Sivasankar's side

• Swpana and Sivasankar families have close friendly relations, but that does not mean they are involved in the crime.

• ED has not cited any fact so far to prove Sivasankar's involvement in gold smuggling.

• Chartered accountant Venugopal had handed over the locker keys to Swapna in 2019. The statements recorded after the arrest cannot stand the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Confidential statements

In a move aimed at plugging all loopholes, the Customs has decided to record the confidential statements of the accused in the gold smuggling. The investigation agency decided to cite Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code in this regard and also to ensure the credibility of her statements. This was done in the wake of the release of a voice clip believed to be that of Swapna triggering a major controversy recently.

The statements given by the accused before the investigating officials under Section 108 of the Customs Act and Section 50 of PMLA have the same evidential value as that of confidential statements recorded under Cr PC 164 before the magistrate. However, the investigating agency’s decision to record again the statements given by accused under Section 108 as confidential ones has become a talking bout in the legal circles. Normally, this practice is not followed in gold smuggling cases.

Meanwhile, the legal counseling meant for the accused ahead of recording the confidential statements got over on Wednesday. If the accused convey their willingness, their statements would be recorded on Thursday.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.