In a new development in the Kerala gold smuggling case, call records published by various Malayalam channels show that calls were made from main accused Sarith Kumar’s phone to M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan multiple times in the past several weeks.
The documents shown on channels, also with TNM, have details of the phone calls made by Sarith from April to July. (Though parts of the call records were selectively leaked by sources in the investigation, the veracity cannot be independently verified).
Minutes after the documents were accessed by the media, officials of the Customs Department reached the residence of Sivasankar near Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram.
After spending around 10 minutes inside the house, the officials paced out of the place. A source in Customs told TNM that a notice was served to Sivasankar under section 108 (power to summon persons to give evidence and produce documents) of Customs Act, 1962. Around 5.15 pm, Sivasankar appeared at the Customs office for questioning.
As per the document, around four calls ranging from one minute to 12 minutes were made from Sarith’s phone to Sivasankar. Ten other calls were for less than 30 seconds and it is unclear if these calls were attended to.
The IAS officer has answered the call four times, with three being on 20 April and one call on 14 May. The duo’s conversation on 20 April took place at three times: 3.51 pm, 8.33 pm and 11.33 pm.
M Sivasankar IAS, who was the Principal Secretary of CM Pinarayi Vijayan and also the IT Secretary of the state, was removed from both positions last week, following allegations that he had close connections with the accused persons in the gold smuggling case.
According to media reports, the phone call records also show that Swapna, Sarith and the UAE Consulate officer were also frequently in touch with each other. Both Sarith and Swapna are former employees of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
If the IAS officer is made an accused in the case, it will be a huge blow for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A bureaucrat who is close to the CM, Pinarayi has defended Sivasankar during other recent controversies. The opposition parties have been demanding his resignation and have alleged that some members in the CM’s office were in cahoots with the accused in the case.
Sarith also seems to have called Swapna on 5 July, the day he was held by the customs officials.
Sarith has also allegedly called Rashed Khasmi Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia, the acting Consul General of the Consulate, multiple times on 3 and 5 July. Swapna has also called the acting Consul General of the Consulate many times in these days.
It must be noted that the Consulate officer was called to the air cargo complex of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to verify the contents of the consular bag on 3 July. Since the official cargo document and signature were not in the prescribed format, he was asked to make another Bill of Entry for re-export.
It was on July 5 that the crime came to the fore and Sarith was held. The customs officials opened the supposed consular bag and found gold in cylindrical form along with some food items. The Consulate officer said that only the food items belonged to him. The Consulate officer asked the customs officials to ask Sarith for details about the imported cargo, as the former used to take help from the now accused for clearance of goods in India.
(The story has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)
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