M Sivasankar (archive photo)
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM / KOCHI: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan embarked on a rapid damage control on Tuesday by forcing his principal secretary, the officer of IAS M Sivasankar, to quit smoking like a racket of contraband gold involving diplomatic channels, threatening to expose the alleged complicity of the Office of the Chief Minister (CMO) in the crime.
Sivasankar, who was also an IT secretary, requested a one-year leave and was immediately granted the same after the UDF and BJP made serious allegations against him in relation to the main accused, Swapna Suresh, who is on the run. It has been alleged that Sivasankar was responsible for recruiting Swapna to a plum position in the IT department, a portfolio held by Vijayan, despite a questionable track record and a crime investigation against her in a counterfeiting case.
The CM vehemently denied any wrongdoing on the part of the CMO and said its government welcomed any investigation. “When allegations were brought against Sivasankar by linking him to the controversial woman, he was removed from office. However, the allegations are not legally tenable. But there were several remarks in society linking him to the woman. Such a person should not be part of the CMO at this stage. Therefore, we made such a decision, ”said Vijayan.
At a press conference on Tuesday evening, the CM however completely avoided or refused to answer specific questions on the extent and nature of Swapna’s contact with Sivasankar and on the question of whether the CM should assume a form or another of moral responsibility for what happened.
On Sunday, based on specific information, customs detected 30 kg of gold hidden in household items in diplomatic baggage seized at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The customs authorities obtained authorization from the Ministry of External Affairs before opening the bag in the presence of officials from the UAE consulate. The precious metal was hidden in a door lock, a hose, a car tire pump and a speaker, sources said.
Sarith Kumar, a former UAE consulate PRO who tried to receive the cargo by claiming to be a member of the consulate staff, was arrested after interrogation. Sarith, Swapna’s accomplice, had received cargo from the consulate at the airport for a year.
BJP Head of State K Surendran alleged that the first call to protect Swapna was from the CMO, while the opposition leader of the assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, demanded an investigation by the CBI in a letter written to the Prime Minister. Following the controversy, the IT department terminated Swapna’s contract on Monday.
Surendran alleged that Vijayan had known Swapna since 2017. “She is a regular presence in the corridors of power in Thiruvananthapuram and is familiar to CPM leaders,” he said.