ED summons the private secretary of the Kerala chief minister in the Life Mission kickback case

A week after Kerala chief minister Pinarati Vijayan’s main secretary, M. Sivasankar, was arrested, the CM’s additional private secretary, C. M. Raveendran, was called in by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged kickbacks in the state government’s Life Mission project.

People close to the federal agency said that Raveendran has been told by the ED to show up at its Kochi office on Monday, February 27.

Last week, a supposed chat between Raveendran and Swapna Suresh, the two main suspects in the gold smuggling and Life Mission cases, came to light. The supposed chat showed that Raveendran and Swapna Suresh were in touch and gave each other advice. HT couldn’t check to see if these chats were real.

Raveendran is known to be close to the chief minister, and even though there were some charges against him, Vijayan kept him on for his second term.

People who were quoted above said that after questioning Sivasankar and the former director of Life Mission, U V Jose, the central agency now has some clear leads in the case. Sivasankar was taken into custody by the ED on February 14. He is still there.

In one of the WhatsApp conversations, it is said that Sivasankar told Swapna Suresh to talk to Raveendran about the project to find out more. In 2020, the agency questioned Raveendran about money laundering charges related to the gold smuggling case. He went to ED after being called there three times and was admitted to the hospital twice.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), which was in power at the time, broke ties with Raveendran.

“The ED can question anyone, even Raveendran, and we have no problem with that,” party state secretary M V Govindan said a few days ago. He also said that the central agencies can’t get close to the CM.

The Life Mission project case is about money laundering in a housing project in Vadakancherry, Thrissur district, that was paid for by the international aid group “Red Crescent” to build free flats for flood victims in 2019. Some people from the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, made sure that the deal went through. Out of the 18.50 crore that was given, only 14.50 crore was spent. The rest, 4 crore, is said to have been split between consulate officials, state government officials, and a couple of middlemen.

Central agencies found out about the alleged kickbacks when they were looking into the gold smuggling case. In June 2020, 30 kg of smuggled gold was taken from the UAE consulate.

In October 2020, one crore in cash and two kilogrammes of gold were found in Swapna’s bank lockers. She reportedly told authorities that the money was the commission she got for making a deal with “Red Crescent.” She said that Sivasankar told her to put his commission money in her locker, and she did as he asked. But Sivasankar said that the gold smuggling gangs were putting him in trouble.

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Hi, my name is Nisha and I'm an educational journalist based in India. I've always been passionate about the power of education to transform lives, and that's what led me to pursue a career in journalism focused on this area. I completed my Bachelor's degree in English from Hindu College in Delhi in 2013 and then went on to earn my Master's in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in 2017. During my studies, I also completed several short-term courses on Education in India, Sociology, and other related subjects to deepen my knowledge in this field. I'm particularly interested in improving access to quality education in rural areas, where students often face significant challenges. I've worked on a number of initiatives to address this issue, including advocating for better policies, resources, and practices that can make a difference. As an educational journalist, I'm passionate about using my platform to highlight important issues in the education space. I've covered a wide range of topics, including the impact of technology in the classroom, innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and the challenges facing students from marginalized communities. One of the things I love most about my work is the opportunity to constantly learn and grow. I'm an avid reader and believe that reading is key to expanding one's knowledge and perspective. I'm always seeking out new ideas and insights to help me better understand the world around me. In summary, as an educational journalist, I'm dedicated to using my skills and expertise to make a positive impact in the field of education. I'm committed to improving access to quality education for all students and to using my platform to raise awareness about important issues in this area.

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