case, says ED; Opp demands Vijayan's resignation (Eds: Combines reax) Kochi, Oct 7 (PTI) The Enforcement Directorate has said a thorough investigation of suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar is required in the Kerala gold smuggling case as he allegedly facilitated opening a locker in a bank for prime accused Swapna Suresh.
The locker with a nationalised bank was used by Suresh to keep the profits from the smuggling, ED, probing the money trail in the smuggling case, said in the interim charge-sheet filed on Tuesday in the Special Court for PMLA cases against Suresh and two other co-accused Sarith P S and Sandeep Nair.
Opposition Congress and BJP latched on to the ED's charge sheet and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, saying the 'link between' him and Suresh 'has been proved'.
The agency claimed Suresh had given a statement to it, saying she was selected in the state government-promoted Space Park project as she was close to Sivasankar, former principal secretary to Vijayan.
Her appointment was in the knowledge of the Chief Minister of Kerala, the ED said.
Reacting to the ED's submissions, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress alleged the ED has found that the appointment of Suresh at the Space Park was 'with the knowledge' of the Chief Minister.
'The link between the accused in the smuggling case and the chief minister is proved. He does not have the right to continue in the post. We seek his resignation,' he told reporters.
BJP leader K Surendran said it was 'shocking' that Suresh during her official meetings with Sivashankar had met the Chief Minister 5-6 times.
In his August 12 and 15 statements to the ED, given under Section 50 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Sivasankar admitted he had facilitated opening of the bank locker by Suresh jointly with his chartered accountant P Venugopal with SBI, Thiruvananthapuram branch, the agency said.
Venugopal was referred to her by Sivasankar to manage her funds and she trusted the IAS officer, it added.
Sivasankar has denied having knowledge of Suresh being in possession of huge cash, the ED said in the interim charge-sheet.
It added the probe revealed Suresh was directly involved in smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage and had earned lucrative profits from it.
The proceeds of the crime had been kept in the bank locker in the form of gold and cash, which were already seized by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Kochi, the ED said.
'In the light of the above, the role of M Sivasankar, who was the key person in the present government, in the entire episode has to be thoroughly investigated and the mirror image of the electronic evidences has to be confronted with him as well as the accused persons and others', the ED said.
In August 2019, Suresh resigned from the UAE Consulate and sought the help of the suspended IAS officer, then principal secretary of Chief Minister, to get a job, the agency said.
In her statement to the ED, Suresh claimed Sivasankar had asked her to submit her resume to PriceWaterhouseCoopers Pvt Ltd (PWC) over an opening in the Space Park project under Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL), the agency said.
Suresh had put Sivasankar's name as a reference in her resume and she was selected for the opening in the Space Park in October 2019.
She was selected in Space Park as she was close to Sivasankar, trustworthy and reliable and her appointment was with the knowledge of the Chief Minister of Kerala, the ED said, quoting her statement given to it.
Suresh further stated that another key accused, Ramees, had approached her and Sarith for smuggling gold.
They decided to smuggle gold and arranged for two trial consignments, it said, adding, Sarith had forged the required documents and after clearance, he and Suresh handed over the gold to Sandeep Nair.
Gold was smuggled through Thiruvananthapuram airport on 21 occasions and she had facilitated it. Sarith gave the smuggled gold to Sandeep, who in turn gave it to Ramees, the ED charged.
In her statement to the ED on August 8, Suresh said she met Sivasankar around eight times officially, but many times unofficially.
She has also said she met Sivasankar five to six times in the presence of the Chief Minister of Kerala, the ED said in the interim charge-sheet.
Central agencies, including NIA, Customs and Enforcement Directorate, are conducting a separate probe into the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from a 'diplomatic baggage' at Thiruvananthapuram International airport on July 5.
Several people, including two former employees of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, Swapna Suresh and Sarith, have been arrested by the central agencies in connection with the case. PTI TGB RRT SA APR VS VS