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Kerala Gold smuggling case: NIA summons Sivasankar again

Kochi: After questioning him for nine hours, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials on Monday night asked suspended senior IAS officer M Sivasankar to appear before them on Tuesday too over the probe on the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case.

Sivasankar would be questioned from a prepared list of questions by the NIA. His statements are given to the Customs as well.

Sivasankar was a former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state Information Technology Secretary before he was removed from the post after the details about his connections with the accused of the smuggling racket emerged.

The NIA had questioned Sivasankar in Thiruvananthapuram for ve hours on Thursday and put him on notice to appear at its Kochi ofce for further questioning on Monday.

The case rst surfaced when P S Sarith Kumar, the former PRO of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was allegedly facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg gold in a diplomatic baggage from Dubai to the Trivandrum International Airport.

The case became murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate and later employed with the IT Department, surfaced in the case. Her links with Sivasankar came up later during the investigation.

Another accused, Sandeep Nair, was arrested along on charge of direct involvement in the smuggling.

In an earlier report submitted before the NIA special court, Kochi, the agency said that it had reasons to believe that the gold smuggling bid is connected to terror funding.

Sivasankar arrived in his own vehicle at the NIA ofce in Kochi around 9:20 am on Monday after a nearly ve-hour trip from the state capital.

Security at the NIA ofce was beefed up and no one except the media was allowed to stay put in front of the premises.

Police ofcials took the IAS ofcer inside the NIA ofce and after the mandatory COVID-19 test, he was escorted to a special room for questioning. Sivasankar was also served breakfast before his questioning began.

A woman IPS ofcer from the NIA has arrived from Hyderabad to lead the agency officials in questioning Sivasankar, while other ofcials will be linked online from various offices during the process. The Customs had first quizzed Sivasankar for nine hours after the case surfaced and they arrested
Sarith. Swapna and Sandeep were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru.

Sivasankar has maintained during his earlier questioning that his relations with Swapna were personal and not linked to their activities.

After the questioning on Monday, Sivasankar went to see his lawyer around 7.30 pm. He, however, abandoned the plan as he was followed by media persons. It is learned that he met the lawyer late at night to seek legal advice.

Sivasankar will remain in Kochi till his interrogation is completed. He stayed at a hotel in the city on Monday.

The NIA has not found any evidence pointing to his involvement in the alleged anti-national activities of the accused.

Sivasankar had earlier dismissed the suggestion of ling for an anticipatory bail application before appearing for the questioning.

However, as the interrogation progressed, he sought legal help. The investigation team said it would give him time to see his lawyer after the rst round of questioning.

Monitoring phone number

During Sivasankar’s interrogation for nine hours, the NIA was also monitoring 12 cell phone numbers. The private numbers were of people under suspicion in the case, including some high-ranking officials. The cyber cell of the NIA was monitoring the numbers.

The numbers belonged to those whose names the agency suspected Sivasankar would reveal if he had knowledge about the smuggling operations. The NIA wanted to keep a tab on the moves of these people, including political gures and high-ranking ofcials, when Sivasankar was being questioned.

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