Thiruvananthapuram: With the impending interrogation of a key member of Kerala Chief Minister's Office, the Enforcement Directorate hopes to garner information that could have a major bearing on its ongoing probe into the diplomatic gold smuggling case as well as the money laundering and forex smuggling linked to it.
C M Raveendran, the additional private secretary of the Kerala Chief Minister, is likely to be questioned by the ED as he has been discharged from a hospital here. His interrogation has been delayed by nearly a month as he had tested positive for COVID-19 and after getting cured of it, his hospital stay prolonged owing to post-Covid complications.
Raveendran was discharged from the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital on Friday soon after the ED conducted checks at six establishments in Vadakara, alleged to be linked to the senior official. The raids that began on Friday morning went on till evening.
The central agency reportedly sought detailed information on the firms' owners and employees to unravel the suspected benami link.
Why the delay
Though the ED had twice issued notices to Raveendran for questioning, he did not appear before the central agency. First, he was asked to appear on November 6; so that he could be questioned along with M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to the CM.
The ED, which is probing the money-laundering case linked to Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling, had earlier arrested Sivasankar.
The agency wants to question Raveendran based on the statements given by Sivasankar and Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case.
However, Raveendran sought treatment after he tested positive for COVID-19 the day before, November 5. He tested negative 10 days later and another notice was issued to appear on Friday. However, Raveendran again sought treatment for post-COVID complications such as cough and breathlessness at the Medical College Hospital on Wednesday evening. As an X-ray and scanning tests found no health problems, he was discharged on Friday.
CPM keen to avoid misgivings
Sources say Raveendran left the hospital after taking into account the advice of CPM leadership. The party wanted to avoid any misgivings as it was felt that he was avoiding interrogation. It was also felt that the questioning cannot be evaded forever.
However, the issue was not discussed by the state secretariat, party sources said.
The opposition had alleged that Raveendran was trying to evade questioning. The central intelligence agency too had made enquiries about Raveendran's health status. Raising suspicions about Raveendran's actions, the ED took some preemptive steps. The raid at Vadakara was part of this.
The agency also indicated that the partners of these firms could be questioned.
Damning messages at ED office
As the questioning got delayed, the ED's Kochi office received several messages and documents containing confidential information linked to Raveendran. Some of these messages were emailed, while others arrived by post. Even retired senior officials are among those who have provided information to the agency against him. However, most of the allegations in the messages cannot be proven, but some documents on Raveendran's assets were found to be true in further scrutiny.
Along with the money-laundering angle in the gold smuggling case, the ED is also probing the suspected kickbacks over various government projects. The ED had shot off a missive to the state government, seeking details on K-FON, Life Mission, Smart City, and DownTown projects.