Thiruvananthapuram: M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary to the chief minister, made 14 foreign trips using his personal passport, according to the evidence obtained by the Customs Department. He used the personal passport even for official travels. IAS officers are provided official passports for making official trips. The central investigating agencies have now launched a joint effort to investigate in detail Sivasankar’s travel abroad.
Most of the trips were to Dubai. The Customs Department is investigating who gave him permission to make these trips. It is also trying to find whom he met there.
In six of the 14 trips, he was accompanied by Trivandrum airport gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh. It is also being investigated if the two had made more travels together.
Investigative agencies have found that Swapna converted into dollars the crores of rupees she received as commissions for the Life Mission deal and for smuggling gold. She then smuggled the dollars to Dubai. Swapna herself has admitted to the investigating agencies that she took $1.90 lakh (approximately Rs 1.38 crore) abroad.
The Customs suspects that she smuggled a larger amount using the diplomatic channel and the influence of M Sivasankar.
Sivasankar may also be named in the Customs’ Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) case in connection with the smuggling of foreign currency.
Sivasankar has so far been interrogated for about 100 hours. He has answered properly only those questions that have been supported by evidence. To the other questions, his standard answer has been 'I don't know'.
He has said that it was his decision to distribute dates obtained through the UAE Consulate to orphanages in the state. Investigative agencies, however, do not believe this. The manner in which he answered some of the questions gave the impression that he was trying to protect someone. Investigating agencies will seek clearer answers to these questions. The CBI investigation into the Life Mission deal is also proceeding towards Sivasankar.
What are official passports for?
Official passports are issued to senior government officials, including IAS and IPS cadres. The holder of such a passport, which is white in colour, is considered as the official representatives of India abroad.
Such trips using an official passport are permitted only for carrying out official duties. It cannot be used for taking part in entertainment or commercial activities.