M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister, India gold smuggling
M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister, arrives at National Investigation Agency (NIA) office for further interrogation in the high-profile Kerala gold smuggling case, in Kochi, Monday, July 27, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

Kochi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday continued questioning suspended senior IAS officer M. Sivasankar in the gold smuggling case. A woman IPS officer from the NIA has arrived from Hyderabad to lead the questioning while other officers will be linked online from various offices.

This is the third time in the past five days that he has been quizzed. On Monday, after questioning him for nine hours, Sivasankar was served a notice to appear before them on Tuesday again.

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The NIA had questioned Sivasankar in Thiruvananthapuram for five hours on July 23 and served him notice to appear at its Kochi office for further questioning on Monday. After Monday’s exercise, he stayed the night at a hotel near the NIA office and around 10am arrived at the NIA premises as the questioning resumed.

Sivasankar was a former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Information Technology Secretary before he was removed from the post after the racket was busted.

The case has rocked Kerala throughout the month and has caused a huge dent to the image of Vijayan, who continues to maintain that this was a private affair concerning Sivasankar, and his office has nothing to do with it.

But, the social media is abuzz on the position he took against his predecessor Oommen Chandy, when Saritha Nair was arrested for cheating investors in the solar panel case.

Vijayan is being reminded of his speeches on the need for a Chief Minister to maintain a clean image in public life during Chandy’s time. His then rhetoric, “has no moral right to continue in the post”, is making the rounds on social media.

The gold smuggling case first surfaced when P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, 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 Thiruvananthapuram.

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

Another accused, Sandip Nair of Kochi, was arrested on charge of direct involvement in the smuggling.

The Customs had first quizzed Sivasankar for nine hours, after the case surfaced and they arrested Sarith. Swapna and Sandip were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru. Sivasankar has maintained all through that his relations with Swapna were personal and not linked to their activities.