Sunday, January 17, 2021
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Not aware of suspect’s appointment, says CM

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said he was not aware of the circumstances that led to the appointment of gold smuggling case suspect Swapna Suresh as marketing liaison officer of the Space Park project under the IT Department’s Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL).

When pressed, Mr. Vijayan, who holds the IT portfolio, said: “It was without my knowledge and will endeavour to understand the facts in the matter.”

Mr. Vijayan did not attempt to defend IT Secretary M. Sivasankar, who reportedly takes the final call on appointments in KSITIL.

Mr. Sivasankar had, arguably, come under a cloud after Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, and BJP State president K. Surendran questioned his alleged association with Ms. Swapna.

The leaders had sought clarity from Mr. Vijayan on whether Mr. Sivasankar had inducted Ms. Swapna into the IT Department subsidiary after she quit her job as an executive secretary at the UAE consulate here and despite adverse reports from the police intelligence and Crime Branch. (The IT Department has terminated her assignment after the controversy broke.)

Sivasankar clarifies

Mr. Sivasankar told The Hindu that the offence was serious and he had a duty as a citizen to help the investigators unravel the crime. “I happened to know the woman but have absolutely nothing to do with the offence. At some stage, if the investigators required to speak to me, I would oblige,” he said.

Mr. Vijayan said Mr. Surendran’s allegation that the CM’s Office had attempted to save Ms. Swapna would not pass muster with the public.

His office was not a hive of criminals where everybody had a free run. Mr. Surendran had attempted to save the suspect by attempting to insinuate that State government was somehow involved in the smuggling of gold through diplomatic channels.

The Customs probe was foolproof. The State government has extended full support to the investigators. “The guilty would not escape the law,” he said.

Political row

The gold seizure had erupted on the political stage as a major controversy with Mr. Chennithala and Mr. Surendran holding back-to-back press conferences.

The controversy seemed centred around Ms. Swapna’s purported political and bureaucratic connections and the alleged influence she wielded in the officialdom. It also dominated the news cycle throughout the day.

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