The Congress yesterday again sought to corner Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the gold smuggling case, asking him why was he “shielding” IAS officer M Sivasankar.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said Vijayan was fearful of something since the gold smuggling case being probed by the National Investigation Agency has reached his office.
Sivasankar was removed as the chief minister’s principal secretary and also as IT Department secretary after the case came to light.
However, Vijayan is not in favour of suspending the IAS officer.
“Whom do you fear Vijayan? Why are you shielding Sivasankar, who was grilled by the Customs for several hours. His alleged links with the suspects are now known to all, but you continue to shield a tainted officer who reigned supreme for more than four years in your office. This means you have something to hide,” Chennithala said.
The Congress will hold a state-wide protest on July 24 to demand Vijayan’s resignation.
The Congress leader alleged that Vijayan is misusing his daily Covid briefings to abuse people, the media and the opposition.
“The CM is trying to hide behind a probe ordered by the chief secretary against Sivasankar. Who is he trying to fool? Even Vijayan may be called in for questioning by the NIA. What information will the chief secretary’s probe bring out? Vijayan has to quit first and then face the probe,” added Chennithala.
State Bharatiya Janata Party president A K Surendran too demanded Vijayan’s resignation.
“We now hear that Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel also has links with the accused. He said that he got in touch for distribution of kits by the UAE consulate. But it was not a food kit but a ‘gold kit’. Everything appears mysterious and fishy but Vijayan continues to say there is nothing,” said Surendran.
Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate, and employed with the IT Department, of which Sivasankar was in charge, and three others were arrested by the NIA for allegedly facilitating smuggling of 30kg gold in a diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai on July 5.
Sivasankar ran into trouble after his alleged links with Swapna surfaced.
He has reportedly admitted to the Customs that he and Swapna were friends.
She was on the run after the arrest of her friend and former colleague P S Sarith by the Customs.
Later, it was revealed that Swapna and Sivasankar were close and had attended several Kerala government events.
Sivasankar, who was let off by the Customs after a nine-hour grilling in the early hours of yesterday, is now likely to be called in for more questioning by the Customs and the NIA.
He arrived for questioning at the Customs office on Tuesday evening and was let off only around 2.15am yesterday.
A three-member team of Customs officials went to Sivasankar’s house on Tuesday to serve a notice on him.
Sivasankar said he was ready to appear before the officials during the day itself for questioning.
Meanwhile, reports of the role played by Swapna’s husband and another person employed under Sivasankar have surfaced.
The NIA, which had taken over the case on Friday and filed an FIR against the accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, arrested Swapna and Nair from Bengaluru on Saturday for their alleged role in the gold smuggling case.
It brought them back to the state on a transit remand and presented them at a court in Kochi, which sent them to the agency’s custody.
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