Thiruvananthapuram: The iPhone that he got from Swapna Suresh was a birthday gift, M Sivasankar, the chief minister’s former principal secretary, has told the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Sivasankar, arrested by the ED in connection with the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, has said that Swapna has been giving him a birthday gift for the last three years. Swapna is a prime accused in the smuggling case. The first gift was two expensive watches, the second was a laptop, and the iPhone was given in January, he said.
In his statement to the ED, Sivasankar said that he, too, used to give birthday gifts to Swapna and her family.
Sivasankar was forced to change his initial stance of not cooperating during the interrogation after it was revealed that one of the iPhones that Unitac owner Santosh Eapen had given to Swapna in December 2019 was in his possession.
Sivasankar is said to be disappointed and uneasy with the many revelations made by Swapna.
The ED will seek the court’s permission to question Swapna again in jail.
Sivasankar will henceforth be questioned by the newly appointed ED joint director Manish Godara.
Sivasankar's custody with the ED was on Thursday extended till next Wednesday by a local court in Kochi.
The bail application of the once powerful IAS officer will also be taken up on Wednesday.
Sivasankar was arrested on October 29 soon after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Kerala High Court and since then he has been in the custody of the ED.
The Customs had arrested P S Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, on July 5 for allegedly smuggling gold in a diplomatic baggage destined for the Consulate. Another former Consulate staffer Swapna Suresh and her associate Sandip Nair were arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Bengaluru.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan removed Sivasankar as his Principal Secretary and then as IT Secretary after it allegedly surfaced that Swapna and Sivasankar were close friends.
But following numerous rounds of probes by the various agencies, Sivasankar's position appears weakened and on Thursday the ED informed the court that he had divulged official secrets relating to certain flagship projects like Life Mission, K-Phone and Smart City to the arrested accused in the gold smuggling case, including prime accused Swapna Suresh.
The ED is gearing up for its next round of targets, as on Friday they had asked the second most powerful official in Vijayan's office - assistant private secretary C M Ravindran to appear before them. However, Raveendran did not appear before the ED as he tested positive for coronavirus infection.
Incidentally it has now come to light that it was the axis of Sivasankaran and Ravindran which was running the show in Vijayan's office.
The ED is likely to question them together.
Ravindran has been a confidant of Vijayan for long and he has had long tenures in the office of powerful CPM leaders including V S Achuthanandan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan when he was the tourism minister in 2006-11.