Court denies bail to suspended IAS officer Sivasankar in ED case linked to gold smuggling

Suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar wason Tuesday denied bail by a court here in an EnforcementDirectorate (ED) case related to money laundering charges inthe Kerala gold smuggling racket.

The special court dealing with Prevention of MoneyLaundering Act case (PMLA) here rejected the plea moved by theformer Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, noting thatthe investigation was at a crucial stage.

Undoubtedly, the investigating agency may require furthertime to collect all the materials, particularly, the allegednexus of the petitioner with a crime, Judge Kauser Edappagathsaid in his order.

The court had on November 12 posted the plea to Tuesdayfor orders after hearing arguments of the prosecution and thedefence in detail.

The officer, arrested by the ED on October 28 inconnection with the “money laundering” aspect in the goldsmuggling case, is now lodged in a jail here after the courtremanded him to judicial custody till November 26.

In his order, the judge said going by materials on recordand factual discussions and legal submissions made during thehearing, at this stage it was not possible for him to “recordsatisfaction that there are reasonable grounds for believingthat the petitioner is not guilty of the offences alleged.” He also said since the threshold stipulation predicated insection 45(1) of PMLA (related to grant of bail) has not beenovercome, the question of considering the efficacy of otherpoints urged by the petitioner such as flight risk, tamperingwith evidence and influencing witnesses and that he wassuffering from disc prolapse would be of “no avail”.

“For the reasons stated above, without expressing anyopinion as to the merits of the case and also with regard tothe claim of the ED and the defence, I am of the view that thepetitioner cannot be released on bail at this stage”, theJudge added in the order.

Earlier in the day, the ED filed an objection to theargument note submitted in the court by Sivasankar on Mondayin which he alleged he was arraigned as an accused as he hadrefused to name a few political targets of the agencyschoice.

In a point by point rebuttal, the ED said none of thepoints now raised by him were either subsequent developmentsor factually correct.

“The allegation regarding extortion or pressure forextracting the names of certain political party leaders ismade with malafide intention and is denied as false. Had heany such contentions or apprehension while he was in custody,he would have divulged it at the time of argument.

“This is only an afterthought intentionally made to makefalse allegations against the investigating agency”, it said,adding such contentions may not be taken note of whileconsidering the bail application.

There were no new developments stated in the argumentsnote and the only intention was to attract media attention,the ED claimed.

In the note, Sivasankar had described as “without anybasis” and “trumped up” the EDs claim that he accepted in hisstatement to the agency on October 15 that he had spoken to asenior customs officer and made request to clear cargoaddressed to UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram as per wishesof Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case.

Countering Sivasankars claim, the ED said its a factthat he did speak to Customs and airport authority in April2018 and also in April 2019 just two months before two dummydiplomatic baggages were sent by Suresh and her associates tocheck the safety of the diplomatic channel.

Asserting that Sivasankar spoke on the desperate requestsmade by Suresh, the ED maintained she has later said in herstatement given to it on November 10 that Sivasankar did speakto Customs/ airport authorities 3-4 times on her request.

“The question is why Mr Sivasankar should be interferingin the normal working of the Govt Department in such sensitivematters. There is clear involvement of petitioner in theoffence of money laundering and as divulged by the primeaccused the kickbacks were for petitioner”, the ED alleged.

The central agency, probing the money trail in the case,had earlier alleged that Suresh in a statement claimed thatSivasankar and his team in the CMO were fully aware of thesmuggling of the precious metal through diplomatic channel.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the ED and theCustoms are conducting separate investigations into the racketthat was busted with the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crorefrom a diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate atThiruvananthapuram airport on July 5.

The IAS officer was suspended after his links to Sureshsurfaced.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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