Sivasankar got kickbacks from Life Mission project: Customs

Kochi, Sep 29 (PTI) M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has been arrayed as the sixth accused in the dollar-smuggling case charge sheet filed in court on Thursday by the Customs Department which has alleged that the bureaucrat received kickbacks in connection with the Life Mission project. In the charge sheet filed before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court (Economic Offence), the Customs Preventive Commissionerate alleged that from the investigation conducted, statements recorded and scrutiny of records, it emerges that Sivasankar "not only received a share from the kickbacks from the Life Mission Project but also played a pivotal role in the illegal generation of foreign currency". Moreover, the charge sheet alleged that the bureaucrat -- who is currently the principal secretary in the sports and youth affairs department -- had every reason to believe that the illegally generated foreign currency was going to be smuggled out of India and yet he did not inform the State government or any other appropriate forum about such financial dealings. The Customs Department came to the conclusion based on the statements of Swapna Suresh, who is also an accused in the case, Sivasankar himself and bank records, the charge sheet said. Besides Sivasankar and Suresh, the other accused in the case include Khaled Mohamed Ali Shoukry, former Finance Head of UAE Consulate, Sarith P S, former PRO of the Consulate, Sandeep Nair, and Santhosh Eappen, MD of Unitac Builders. The charge sheet alleged that the bureaucrat acted as a harbouring offender as it was his duty to inform the government about illegal dealings held at the Consulate office. It further alleged that from his statements "it is seen that he has played a major role in the UAE Consulate for the interest of the Consul General and by violating the norms of the Ministry of External Affairs". "...it also emerges that he has played a major role in abetting the Consul General and other diplomats in generating kickbacks from Life Mission projects of the Kerala government by violating the norms of MEA," it alleged. The Customs Department claimed that Sivasankar had several meetings with the UAE Consulate officials to ensure that the Life Mission project work was entrusted to Unitac Builders in complete disregard to the established practices of tender and quotation. "... it is clear that he has not only received a share from the kickbacks from the Life Mission Project but also played a pivotal role in the illegal generation of foreign currency which he had every reason to believe that it was meant for smuggling out of India," it alleged. The charge sheet alleged that Khaled concealed foreign currency and smuggled it out of the country with the aid of Suresh and Sarith. It alleged that Khaled received a commission of USD 1,90,000 from Eappen for awarding his company the construction work of flats under the Life Mission project at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district of Kerala. Under the project, the State government aims to give jobs to all the homeless within the next five years, and also provide employment for their livelihood. The charge sheet claimed that Nair conspired with Sarith and Suresh to find a suitable builder for the construction of flats at Wadakkanchery and ensure commission for the UAE Consulate officials and received Rs 60 lakh as kickback from Eappen. The dollar case had come to light during the probe into the gold smuggling racket in Kerala in which also Sivasankar is an accused. Sivasankar was in judicial custody for over three months following his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Customs in the cases relating to the sensational gold-smuggling through diplomatic channel, money trail and dollar smuggling. The dollar case relates to alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat in Oman. PTI HMP .