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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Kerala HC denies bail to ex-CM’s aide in money laundering case 

M Sivasankar, who was the principal secretary to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has failed to get bail from the Kerala high court in a case of money laundering involving a state-sponsored housing project and a gold smuggling scam.

He has been in jail since February 14 after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Sivasankar had approached the high court after a special court for money laundering cases rejected his bail application in early March.

He claimed that he was innocent and that the case was politically motivated. He also cited his health issues as a ground for bail.

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However, the ED opposed his bail plea and argued that he was a powerful person who could hamper the investigation and influence the witnesses.

The ED’s lawyer, Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan, said that Sivasankar was the mastermind of the money laundering scheme and that he should not be released on bail.

The high court judge, A Badharudeen, agreed with the ED’s contention and dismissed Sivasankar’s bail petition.

The money laundering case is related to the alleged corruption in the Life Mission project, a housing scheme for the homeless launched by the Kerala government.

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The ED alleged that Sivasankar and some other officials received kickbacks from a foreign aid agency, Red Crescent, which funded a housing project in Thrissur district for the flood-affected people.

The case came to light during the investigation of another case of gold smuggling through the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in July 2020.

The customs department had seized 30 kg of gold from a diplomatic baggage meant for the consulate. The main accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, had confessed that she had received Rs 1 crore as commission from Red Crescent for facilitating the housing project deal.

She had also alleged that Sivasankar had asked her to keep his share of Rs 1 crore in her locker. The ED had recovered Rs 1 crore cash and 2 kg gold from her lockers.

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Sivasankar is also facing charges in the gold smuggling case.

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