Dollar smuggling case: Sivasankar gets bail, walks out of jail

M Sivasankar coming out of court after getting bail. Photo: E V Sreekumar

Kochi: M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was granted bail in the dollar smuggling case on Wednesday by the economic offences court here.

Sivasankar was released by 3 pm from Kakkanad Sub-jail after 98 days in judicial custody.

The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court (Economic Offences) granted bail to the former Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, after directing him to furnish a bond of Rs 1 lakh, two sureties for the like amount and appear before the investigating officers here every Monday.

Granting bail, the court said, "Truly, the offence against the petitioner is serious in nature and requires intensive probe".

Pointing out that Sivasankar had "sufficient knowledge" about smuggling of foreign currencies perpetrated with the help of the prime accused, the court said, "such knowledge and his culpable failure to bring the smuggling to the notice of appropriate authority despite the fact that he was a senior civil servant during relevant time, shall be viewed seriously".

The judge observed that further detention of Sivasankar, who was a cancer survivor and had undergone surgery, was no longer essential for the investigation of the case.

Television visuals showed the IAS officer walking out of the Ernakulam district jail with a backpack and carrying books in his arms around 3 pm. He refused to talk to the media and left in the car of a relative.

Reacting to Sivasankar's bail, Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said proper investigation was not going on in the gold smuggling case and alleged that BJP and the CPI(M) were trying to sabotage the case and there was some secret understanding between them.

M Sivasankar coming out of Kakkanad sub-jail after securing a bail from court. Photo: E V Sreekumar

The customs had arrested him in the dollar case on January 23.

Sivasankar was in judicial custody for over three months days following his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Customs in the cases relating to the sensational gold smuggling through diplomatic channel, money trail and dollar smuggling.

Earlier, he was given bail in two cases and the dollar case was the only one pending against him.

If the COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act) was invoked against him then securing bail would have been difficult. 

The currency smuggling case pertains to the alleged smuggling of $1.9 lakh by Khalid Ali Shoukri, the former head of the finance section of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sivasankar was named as accused in the foreign currency smuggling case based on the statements of Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case.

Swapna Suresh and P S Sarith had accompanied Khalid, who allegedly left for Oman with a bag containing the Dollars. They had accompanied him to avoid security checks at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, as per the statements, as they had managed passes for Green Channel facility.

Swapna in her statements had also claimed that Khalid had later gone to Cairo in Egypt from Oman.

However, Sivasankar has alleged that he was arraigned as accused in the currency smuggling case to prevent him from getting the bail granted by the courts in the gold smuggling case registered by the Customs and the money-laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Sivasankar had also contended that the statements made by Swapna and Sarith, while in custody in the gold smuggling case, would not stand the scrutiny of law.

The COFEPOSA was invoked against the main accused, other than Sivasankar, and they have been awarded one-year preventive detention.

Sivasankarwas suspended after his links to Swapna Suresh, also a former employee of the consulate, surfaced.

The Customs on January 8 had recorded the statement of Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan''s assistant private secretary in connection with the dollar smuggling case.

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