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Thiruvananthapuram, July 23, 2020
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar on Thursday appeared before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the gold smuggling case and was questioned for around five hours.
Earlier in the day, the NIA officials served notice to Sivasankar at his residence here, asking him to appear before them at the Police Club.
Sivsankar reached the venue in his private car around 3.55 p.m., but did not respond to questions from the waiting media persons whether it was the NIA or the Customs.
At 9 p.m, accompanied by a large number of police officials, he was escorted to his car in which he had come with his relative and despite a volley of questions, he kept silent, got into the car and left for home.
According to reports, the NIA and Customs are expected to call him again as the probe is continuing.
The Customs Department, which began the probe in the case last week, had questioned Sivasankar for over nine hours.
Vijayan, when asked about the development, sharply said: "I have already made this clear. Let the NIA do their job, I have already said about this before also."
The gold smuggling case first surfaced when P. S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE consulate here, was arrested by the Customs Department on July 5 when he was facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in the diplomatic baggage from Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram.
The case became more murky when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate and employed with the state IT Department, surfaced, and then the accused's links with senior IAS official Sivasankar, who has been suspended and dropped from two key posts, were unearthed.
On Wednesday the NIA had completed a joint questioning session with the three arrested persons -- Sarith, Swapna and Sandip Nair -- and it was only a matter of time when Sivasankar was told to appear.
Vijayan has been trying to distance himself from Sivasankar as his stock statement has been: "None will be spared, whosoever he is."
With Sivasankar appearing before the NIA, state BJP president K. Surendran said that time is up for Vijayan and he must quit.
"With each passing moment of you sticking to your post, you are challenging the basic principle of democracy. The country is expecting that you would show the example of resigning as that's what is expected to uphold the political morality," Surendran said in a Facebook post.
Congress legislator K. S. Sabarinath said that all know what Vijayan will say now and it will be his routine reaction - "those who have done wrong will not be protected or spared", while going to add that the visuals of Sivasankar going for the questioning "are the most shameful scenes of the most powerful official appearing before the NIA".
CPI-M legislator A. M. Shamseer, however, said that the Chief Minister had made his position clear.
"I don't find anything wrong in the questioning and the NIA is doing their duty. It's only natural that the opposition will cry for the resignation of the CM, as it's common in politics," said Shamseer. After Sivasankar walked out from the NIA office, he asked the media to tell facts only and not let their imagination run wild.