The Law Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday summoned the main defendant in the Kerala gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, following interviews she recently gave raising allegations against the IAS officer M Sivasankar – another defendant.
Officials said Swapna was asked to report to the ED office in Kochi at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Suresh then told reporters she would appear before the agency on February 15 as she was undergoing treatment.
Two days ago, excerpts from Sivasankar’s autobiography, ‘Aswathamavu: Verum Oru Aana (Aswarthamavu is just an elephant)’ surfaced in the media, after which Suresh spoke out.
“Since he made serious allegations against me and took a holier position than you, I’m forced out.” I repeat that he exploited and betrayed me and pretended not to know anything,” she said in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. “Everything I know, he knows too. He can’t take a good word like that,” she added.
After the gold smuggling racket came to light in 2020, Sivasankar was among those charged in connection with the case and was suspended from his duties.
He was arrested on November 24, 2020 by Customs for allegedly assisting the accused and later ED also took him into custody. He was released on bail by the Chief Economic Crimes Magistrate in Kochi on February 3, 2021. He is charged in both Customs and ED cases and the ED had brought money laundering charges against him . Suspended for more than 18 months, the Sivasankar was put back into service last month.
Suresh was arrested in July 2020, shortly after the racketeering came to light, and after spending 16 months behind bars, was released from prison in November last year.
A senior ED official who did not want to be named said that after taking Suresh’s statement and verifying other information, the agency would ask the trial court to cancel Sivasankar’s bail.
Reacting to the senior official’s claims, Suresh had said in his interviews that Sivasankar was “aware of all her activities and helped her in several ways including leaving the state after the gold was seized.”
She had also claimed to have come into contact with Sivasankar in 2017 and during the period “he was part of her life and all her activities”. She added that two audio clips of her in which she was forced by central agencies to appoint the chief minister, were also recorded at Sivasankar’s request. She also said that central agencies never forced her to take the name Vijayan and that it was a plot staged by Sivasankar.
She also admitted that ₹2 crores of cash and two kg of gold seized by ED from her locker during the investigation were part of the commission she got for helping the Life Mission, a unit building project. accommodation for the homeless with the help of the Middle East-based charity Red Croissant. She also alleged that Sivasankar advised her to keep the money in a locker and asked her to open a joint account with her chartered accountant.
After its exposure, the opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party attacked the government, saying their corruption charges against Life Mission and other projects had been proven true. But senior CPI(M) official Anathalavattom Anandan said “it was not appropriate to treat the words of the main defendant in a smuggling case as gospel truth”.
After his interview, the police also opened an investigation into his diploma. During the investigation of the gold smuggling case, it was discovered that his diploma was fake. Later, Baba Saheb University in Mumbai made it clear that there is no B Com course in the university and its degree is fake. Although the police registered one case in the degree case in 2020, there has been no progress in the past two years.
The sensational gold smuggling case came to light on July 5, 2020, when customs seized 30kg of gold hidden in bathroom fixtures in one of the shipments, camouflaged as diplomatic baggage arrived at the UAE consulate in the state capital.
A former employee of the consulate, P Sarith, who came to receive the shipment, was arrested the same day. After a week, the National Investigation Agency arrested Suresh and his accomplice Sandeep Nair from Bengaluru and Sivasankar was arrested after six months. Suspended for a year and a half, it was resumed in service last month.