The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in its chargesheet submitted to the special court that deals with offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, has revealed M Shivashankar has aided Swapna Suresh to open a locker facility in Thiruvananthapuram SBI Bank jointly with his own Chartered Accountant P Venugopal.
The proceeds of various crimes which Swapna Suresh committed, including gold smuggling and kickbacks and commissions for helping various individuals, are believed to have been stored in this locker. The ED chargesheet clearly states that Sivasankar introduced Swapna to his chartered accountant in Thiruvananthapuram. Earlier, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had seized cash and gold worth over 1 crore from the same locker facility.
Venugopal, a witness in the gold smuggling case has revealed explosive details which puts the former principal secretary of the state on tenterhooks. As per it, Sivasankar requested to advice Swapna on financial matters. Swapna had approached Venugopal seeking help to deposit 30 lakhs as Fixed Deposit. But the chartered accountant instead advised her against it and recommended that she may open a locker.
At this juncture, Sivasankar asked him to make the locker facility as a joint account with the accountant and Swapna. Venugopal also stated that he kept Shivashankar "informed about operations in the locker”. He also revealed that the key of the locker in his possession and money was debited from the haul multiple times and handed over to Swapna.
However, Sivashankar clearly seems to have dilly-dallied when confronted with the evidence and statements. He maintained that he was not aware of the opening of the Bank account.
The chargesheet also brought out WhatsApp chats, some of them looks dubious while some are cryptic. ED stated that when confronted with these Whatsapp chats Sivashankar didn't give a proper explanation and that it indicates that Sivashankar had clear knowledge about the locker. In one chat, Venugopal requests Sivasankar to call him when there is no one in the room. To which the IAS officer replies "OK".
“17.5(12+4+15) will be sent to her and 1.5 kept for SBI”, reveals another chat sent by Venugopal to which Sivasankar again says “ok”.
"Sent through SARAH, ask her to confirm," another chat sent by the accountant to which Sivasankar again replies with a simple affirmative.
"Kept in a locker in her presence at 2 pm today" to which Sivashankar Thanked the accountant.
The ED confronted Sivasankar with another chat sent by him to Venugopal, Sivasankaran asks him, "The amount is 35, So it should be done separately?" The accountant replied to him saying, "FD for 30 should be OK." to which Sivasankar replied with an "OK." Further, Venugopal messages Sivasankar, "I will come to your place by 3.30-3.40" to which the IAS officer didn't respond.
When the ED asked Sivasankar about all these chats, he maintained ignorance to it and said, "he is not sure whether its a message written by him or message forwarded from someone."
Sivasankar also went on record to say he is not aware of the amount in the bag of money which Swapna gave to Venugopal to be kept in the locker. The agency further states that Sivasankar was a key person in the ruling government and his “role in the entire episode has to be thoroughly investigated”.
The charge sheet concludes that in the light of the statements taken by many accused and witness, the role of M Sivasankar, a key person in the government, in the entire episode need to be thoroughly investigated and he and accused has been confronted with electronic evidence.
Adding more evidence to the role of Sivashankar, the disposition made by Swapna adds that "Since Sivasankar sir had referred, I trusted him." Meanwhile, K Surendran BJP President stated that the Chief Minister is the Kingpin the Gold Smuggling. "It was he who introduced Swapnna to Sivashankar back in 2017. So all the dealings they did was with his knowledge," Surendran said.