Are you afraid of Sivasankar, court asks Customs; allows five-day custody

M Sivasankar
Sivasankar was suspended after his links to Suresh, a former employee of the consulate, surfaced.

Kochi: A special court here on Wednesday sent suspended senior bureaucrat M Sivasankar to the custody of the Customs, a day after the agency recorded his arrest in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case.

The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences), Ernakulam, sent Sivasankar, former principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to five-day custody of the Customs even as it posed some critical queries to the investigation agency.

The court questioned the agency for not mentioning the official positions held by Sivasankar in its remand report, Manorama News reported. Pointing to this omission, it asked the investigation officers whether they were afraid of Sivasankar.

The court also asked the agency whether they had any incriminating evidence against Sivasankar.

Officer's defence

The court made the observations while considering Sivasankar's argument that the Customs was trying to frame him in the case. The IAS officer's counsel told the court that the Customs' argument that Sivasankar has to be questioned based on Swapna Suresh's statements was baseless.

Sivasankar was present in the court via video conferencing.

Sivasankar is presently lodged in a jail here after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case. A team of officials from the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate had reached the jail where he is lodged and recorded his arrest on Wednesday.

Soon after booking him, the Customs filed a plea before the court, seeking departmental custody of Sivasankar for 10 days.

Customs' plea

In the remand report filed in the court, the Customs claimed that the key accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, had revealed that Sivasankar was in the know and has also abetted the smuggling activities.

The Customs said Swapna made this claim during her interrogation at the Attakkulangara women's jail in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 18.

It said interrogation of Sivasankar is required to acquire clarity as to the modus operandi and details of the accomplices behind the smuggling activity, without delay.

On Monday, the Customs, in its prayer before the Special court for PMLA cases seeking permission to arrest Sivasankar, had submitted that during the course of investigation it was able to get direct incriminating material against the officer over his involvement in the gold smuggling.

The Customs said it has arrested around 15 people, including prime accused Swapna Suresh, Sarith PS and Sandeep Nair, in connection with the seizure of 30 kg smuggled gold illicitly brought in a diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5.

The agency has claimed that it has now come to light that Sivasankar, who has been arrayed as fifth accused in the case registered by the ED, is also involved in the crime.

The move by the Customs came days after Sivasankar moved the Kerala High Court seeking bail in the ED case after the Special Court for PMLA cases here rejected his application for regular bail on November 17.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the ED and the Customs are conducting separate investigations into the racket that was busted with the seizure of gold on July 5.

The IAS officer was suspended after his links to Swapna, a former employee of the consulate, surfaced.