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Kerala gold smuggling case: CM suspends senior IAS officer

Jul 16, 2020 20:30 IST

Under fire from the Opposition, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has suspended senior IAS officer and his former principal secretary M Sivasanka till a probe in the gold smuggling case is completed. Sivasankar was grilled by the Customs for nearly nine hours in the gold smuggling case in Kerala as the opposition Congress and BJP on Wednesday stepped up their attack on the Left front government and demanded his suspension. Vijayan had maintained that a high- level official probe was looking into allegations against Sivasankar, removed as his Principal Secretary and the I-T Secretary, and reiterated that his government would not protect any wrongdoer in the sensational case, also being investigated by the NIA. The bureaucrat, who has gone on one year leave after being eased out of his positions in the government, appeared before the Customs officials around 5.15 pm on Tuesday shortly after being summoned in connection with the investigation. The marathon questioning of Sivasankar continued till 2.15 am Wednesday after which he was escorted back to his home by the Customs officials. Sivasankar was removed from his posts after allegations surfaced that he had links with Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the case related to the attempt to smuggle gold through diplomatic baggage using the name of a person in the UAE consulate. As speculations were rife that the officer would be suspended following his questioning, Vijayan told reporters here that the top most official of the state government (the Chief Secretary) was investigating the allegations against Sivasankar and action will be taken as per the probe report, to be filed soon. The National Investigation Agency and the Customs department were probing the matter and the state government will not protect any wrongdoers,he said. "The probe being carried by the state chief secretary is related to the activities of the state government official. We are enquiring whether the act of the official was illegal or inappropriate", Vijayan had said. On Tuesday, the chief minister had said a panel headed by Chief Secretary Dr Vishwas Mehta was probing the charges against the bureaucrat and action would be taken, if he was found guilty. The Customs is probing whether Sivasankar had used his office to provide any help to key accused-- Sarith, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair. It had seized the gold, weighing over 30 kg and valued at around Rs 15 crore on July 5. The NIA, which has been entrusted withthe probe into the case by the Centre, has booked four people Sarith, Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Fasil Fareed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. As the case has national and international linkages, and as the initial inquiries have revealed that the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India, it has taken up the investigation, an NIA official had said earlier.