After days of interrogation, investigation, and arbitration, Enforcement Directorate has arrested Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar on Wednesday night. In the charge sheet, they have included the suspended IAS officer as the fifth accused in the case. They also noted that the officer knew about the crime when he had contacted Customs officials, requesting them to retrieve the baggage containing the gold. The officials added that around 21 such similar requests were made during 2019-20.
The arrest process began from Sivasankar’s bail application, which the High Court dismissed yesterday. Soon after the dismissal, the Enforcement Directorate picked the latter up from a private Ayurveda hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, The officials then transported him to ED’s Kochi office, where they interrogated Sivasankar for around two hours. Meanwhile, the Customs Department had served Sivasankar a notice for questioning while the ED was transporting him, and the Customs took over the questioning from ED at around 6 pm yesterday.
The decision to arrest Sivasankar was taken in a meeting chaired by ED Special Director Sushil Kumar, other officers and the agency’s prosecutor TA Unnikrishnan. Denying the bail hearing, the High Court had noted that it had no opposition to an arrest since there was relevant evidence pointing to a suspicion. Since the ED had not indicated whether Sivasankar is a witness or a suspect, the Court decided that bail would hinder the investigation. The Justice Ashok Menon bench also pointed at the possibility that Sivasankar had interacted with prime accused Swapna Suresh beyond a professional capacity, citing the example of helping her with financial transactions.
After a six-hour-long interview at their Kochi office on Wednesday and a review meeting, the officials decided that they had enough evidence against the suspended IAS officer. They arrested Sivasankar at 10 pm, marking the first instance where a serving IAS officer is arrested in Kerala. The ED, in their charge sheet, noted that he is being arrested under the “provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002”.
The officials presented Sivasankar in front of a Magistrate in the city, where the judge remanded the accused to seven days with ED. However, keeping in mind Sivasankar’s health problems, the Magistrate has given clear instructions on how the questioning can be done. The time frame is from morning 9 to 6 in the evening, and he cannot be questioned for more than three hours at a time. The Court also added that sufficient rest should be provided and that the investigators should not resort to mental harassment.
After meeting with his immediate family, Sivasankar was taken to the ED office in Kochi to start the questioning. The officials must present him before the Court on November 4, and they intend to find answers to fill the missing pieces. During the remand hearing, ED had mentioned that Sivasankar was uncooperative. However, Sivasankar’s lawyer refuted the statement. He said that the IAS officer was cooperative during the 36 hours of interrogation with ED on five different occasions.
The whole event began on a fateful night on June 30, when Customs officials seized a baggage. After obtaining necessary permissions, they opened it to find the gold and a preliminary investigation led to Sarith PS. After interrogating him, the sleuths were led to Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair. And from them to other big fish including M Sivasankar.