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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Pinarayi Vijayan’s former top IAS officer Sivasankar, earlier jailed in gold smuggling case, now appears before ED for Life Mission scam

The once most powerful bureaucrat in the Pinarayi Vijayan government M.Sivasankar, who retired from service in January, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate on Monday in connection with the chief minister’s pet project, Life Mission.

Incidentally, he was asked to appear before the probe agency on the last day of his service and on his request for a change, a fresh date was issued.

This case involves the alleged violation of foreign contribution regulations in the Kerala government’s flagship project, which intended to provide homes to the poor who lost their houses in the devastating floods of 2018.

The project at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district then came under a cloud.

Sivasankar has been summoned after they recently completed a few rounds of questioning of Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case, and interrogated her along with two other accused in the same case.

The CBI had earlier arrested Unitac builder Santhosh Eapen besides questioning top government officials, including Sivasankar, in the Life Mission case.

The case surfaced after the gold smuggling case came to light in June 2020 in which Sivasankar was jailed.

Both Swapna Suresh and Sarith employed in the UAE Consulate, were later found to have a role in Life Mission funds misappropriation too.

The state government then had approached the Kerala High Court to stop the probe, but it dismissed the pleas and said that an ongoing CBI probe should continue in the case involving senior government officers and contractors.

The CBI had then taken a position that private company Unitac, carrying out construction on behalf of a Kerala government body, did not get the contract through a tender.

The project entailed construction of 97 apartments and a health centre, and it was alleged that both the gold smuggling case accused held talks with Unitac and fixed a commission of 30 per cent of the project cost — 20 per cent to a UAE official and 10 per cent to Swapna Suresh and other co-accused for approvals and other file movements.

The CBI claimed that Sivasankar had met Unitac owner Santhosh Eapen at his chamber along with Swapna Suresh and assured full support.

U.V. Jose, the then Life Mission Chief Executive Officer, was also allegedly present at this meeting.

(This article has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline)

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