ED backs up claim of larger nexus in Kerala case with WhatsApp chats
The chats, allegedly retrieved by investigators from Swapna Suresh’s phone, were reproduced by ED in its remand application to a Kochi court
Thiruvananthapuram: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) cited WhatsApp chats between former bureaucrat M Sivasankar and key accused in the gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh in its request on Wednesday for the retired civil servant’s custody in a case related to the alleged kickbacks in Life Mission project.
The chats, allegedly retrieved by investigators from Swapna Suresh’s phone, were reproduced by ED in its remand application to a Kochi court to allege a larger nexus of government representatives in the allocation of contracts and the generation of proceeds of crime. The judge on Wednesday remanded Sivasankar, a former principal secretary to Kerala chief minister, to five-day ED custody.
This is the second time that central agencies have arrested Sivasankar. He was in jail for 98 days in October 2020 in connection with charges related to the sensational gold smuggling case in which 30 kg of the yellow metal was seized by Customs from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in the state capital in June 2020.
Irregularities in the Life Mission case came to light when the gold case was being investigated. ED said ₹18.50 crore was allegedly collected from a foreign aid agency that funded a housing project for flood victims in Thrissur.
through the UAE consulate and only ₹14.50 crore was spent on the project. She claimed that the rest was spent to pay bribes and commission.
According to an excerpt of the chat quoted by ED, Sivasankar reportedly told Swapna Suresh that the chief minister had given his nod to give her a job. “The CM has asked me to get a job for you. But that will be in lower rank. But your salary will be double of your previous position,” Sivasankar told Swapna on July 31, 2019, according to the ED document.
“You have to be careful. If something goes wrong it will be on your head,” Sivasankar alleged told her a day before the Life Mission project was clinched in 2019, according to the ED document.
The Opposition has cited ED’s application to slam chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
“If the CM’s hands are clean why he was scared of CBI probe and scuttling it. The latest WhatsApp chat clearly shows he was aware of everything,” said Congress leader and leader of Opposition in the assembly VD Satheesan.
In 2020 when the gold smuggling case initially surfaced, the chief minister initially said that he did not know Swapna Suresh. Later, he said that he met her a couple of times in connection with events at the UAE consulate.
But Swapna Suresh, who has accused Kerala government functionaries of making her a scapegoat, insisted that she visited his official residence several times and that the chief minister’s office was aware of all activities going through the UAE consulate.