Kochi: The questioning on black money transactions in connection with the gold smuggling case will not be limited to suspended bureaucrat M Sivasankar, who was the principal secretary to the chief minister, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has told the court.
Many high-ranking ofcials are involved in money laundering, the ED said in its argument opposing the bail application of Swapna Suresh, one of the main accused in the gold smuggling case that was detected at the Trivandrum International Airport on July 5.
Appearing for the ED, special prosecutor T A Unnikrishnan opposed Swapna’s contention that the one kilogramme of gold jewellery found in her bank locker was given to her by her father for her marriage. He said her family was not that well-off to buy such ornaments when she got married 20 years ago. Most of the jewellery found in the locker were new, he said.
The ED told the court that the foreign trips of gold smuggling case accused Swapna and her transactions there are under investigation.
The agency also said that the statements given by Sivasankar and Swapna about the locker don’t explain the contents found in it.
Swapna’s lawyer Joe Paul told the court that she had visited UAE to visit her ailing father. He said the locker contained the amount that Swapna, who has been working since she was 19, had earned as commission legally for various projects
In response, the court asked why the amount was kept in a bank locker if it was not black money.
When she was interrogated by the ED, Swapna had told the agency that the amount was gifted to her by a Thiruvananthapuram UAE Consulate ofcial, who had got it as commission for the Life Mission project at Vadakkanchery. She said Sivasankar’s chartered accountant had asked her to keep the amount in the locker.
The representatives of the construction company involved in the Vadakkanchery Life Mission project got to meet the consulate representative only after Swapna received the commission amount and they were instructed to get in touch with Sivasankar, the ED said.
Swapna a benami?
The ED suspects that Swapna is a benami of top-ranking state officials.
Its investigations have revealed that Swapna had borrowed money from M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary of the chief minister, thrice in the last two years after she faced financial problems.
The ED believes that the Rs 1 crore found in the bank locker that was jointly operated by Swapna and Sivasankar’s chartered accountant was meant for someone else. It plans to question many high-ranking officials to find out who was the intended beneficiary of the amount.
Despite having such a large amount in the locker, Sivasankar transferred money to Swapna from his own bank account on all the three occasions. Swapna has not yet repaid Sivasankar. Swapna or Sivasankar would have used the money in the locker had it belonged to them, the ED said.
The ED believes that Swapna’s repeated statements that the gold ornaments and money found in the bank locker belonged to her were intended to protect high-ranking officials
Although the ED has found to be true Swapna’s statement that the Rs 1 crore in the locker was the commission amount paid by Unitac for winning the contract to construct ats under the Life Mission in Vadakkanchery, they have not been able to ascertain to whom the amount was to be handed over.
During interrogations by three investigative agencies, including the ED, both Swapna and Sivasankar said the amount belonged to her. However, they couldn’t explain why the amount was not touched when Swapna faced financial problems.
The ED, which was reluctant to disclose crucial information related to the case, submitted the case diary to the court. According to the agency’s estimates, about Rs 3.6 crore was received as commission for the construction contract under the Life Mission housing project in Vadakkanchery.
The case diary will convince the court about the black money transactions of the accused, the prosecutor said.
The court will pronounce the verdict on Swapna’s bail plea on August 21. The ED said that if she is granted bail, Swapna, who enjoyed great influence even in the chief minister’s office, would destroy evidence in the case.