Gold smuggling case: Sivasankar's custody extended till Nov 12

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(Eds: Adds inputs, changes intro) Kochi, Nov 11 (PTI) The ED, probing the money trail in the gold smuggling case on Wednesday alleged that M Sivasankar, former principal secretary of Kerala Chief Minister, and his team in the CMO were fully aware of the smuggling of yellow metal through diplomatic channel.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) made this claim in an affidavit filed in a special court based on a statement given to it by prime accused in the sensational case, Swapna Suresh, on Tuesday (November 10).

The affidavit was filed in the Special Court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases here while seeking extension of custody of Sivasankar, arrested on October 28 in connection with the 'money laundering' in the gold smuggling case, by one more day.

Considering the plea, the special court extended the ED's custody of Sivasankar till November 12.

In the affidavit, the ED stated that Suresh has given a statement to it claiming that Sivasankar and his team in the Chief Ministers Office (CMO) were aware of the smuggling of the gold through diplomatic channel.

The ED, which had questioned Suresh on Tuesday in a jail in Thiruvananthapuram with the court's permission, also alleged that Rs 1 crore seized from the lockers belonging to Suresh, was meant for Sivasankar.

The agency said during the statement of Suresh recorded on November 10, she was shown certain whatsapp messages exchanged between her and Sivasankar and asked to explain the contents.

'In reply she has categorically stated that: Mr Sivasankar and his team in the CMO was fully aware of the gold smuggling and other electronic items done through diplomatic channel.' She has stated that Sivasankar was also aware of the kick-backs given by M/s Unitac Builders to her and her close associates including Khalid, CFO, UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in lieu of facilitating the award of contract from Red Crescent under the LIFE Mission Project.

'Out of which, amount of Rs 1 crore (approx) which was subsequently seized by NIA from the lockers belonging to Swapna, which were opened on the directions of Mr Sivasankar and was meant for him,' the ED said, quoting Suresh's statement, in the affidavit.

ED also alleged that Sivasankar had shared crucial information with Suresh relating to KFON and LIFE Mission Projects.

'There could be possible kick-backs received from certain private parties in these projects as Mr Sivasankar did make a mention of the same to her in whatsapp calls,' it said.

The agency also alleged that Sivasankar was in touch with Santhosh Eappan of Unitac Builders and wanted him to be part of some contracts under KFON and LIFE Mission Projects.

While LIFE Mission is the Kerala government's housing scheme for the homeless, KFON is a project to provide free internet service for the poor.

Unitac is a private firm which has been awarded the contract for construction of houses under LIFE Mission project in Wadakkanchery Municipality in Thrissur district.

The ED further stated in the affidavit that Suresh has also disclosed names of certain people who were very close to Sivasankar-- one of them was involved in Taurus Downtown projects.

Meanwhile, the court is likely to consider on Thursday the bail application moved by Sivasankar.

The National Investigation Agency, Customs and the ED are conducting separate investigations into the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from a diplomatic baggage of UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5. PTI TGB ROH ROH