All eyes on ED as Kerala CM’s aide seeks more time to appear

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Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 10 (IANS) All eyes are on the ED now as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s close aide CM Ravindran once again failed to appear before the agency for questioning on Thursday in the gold smuggling case as he was unwell and sought two-weeks time to do so.

A letter to this effect was handed over to the ED by Ravindran’s counsel, which was endorsed by a medical professional. The letter said that he needed two weeks as he had just recovered from Covid-19 and had constant headache and neck pain.

Ravindran, an Assistant Private Secretary to the CM, is under treatment at the Medical College Hospital here and was issued notice for the third time to appear before Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials at their Kochi office on Thursday.

While the opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have gone hammer and tongs at Vijayan for allegedly shielding Ravindran, Communist Party Of India (Marxist) leaders are defending and giving him a clean chit.

This is the second time in succession and overall the third time that Ravindran was admitted to the Medical College Hospital here on Tuesday.

State BJP President K Surendran said there has to be an “impartial” medical team of experts who should identify Ravindran’s health issue.

“CM Ravindran is CM’s Ravindran and our CM (Vijayan) will be in trouble the moment Ravindran appears before the ED. Hence, they are trying to see that he does not appear before the ED,” said Surendran.

State Tourism Minister and CPI(M) leader Kadakampally Surendran claimed that the BJP leader was known for blurting out baseless statements and all need to look into his present outbursts as such.

In November, a day after Ravindran was served the first notice by the central agency, he had tested coronavirus positive. After his self-quarantine period ended, a second notice was issued to him on November 25 but he was hospitalised within hours after complaining of breathing problems.

The first notice was served in early November after the gold smuggling case prime accused Swapna Suresh’s alleged links with Ravindran had surfaced.

Ravindran is a CPI(M) nominee and is posted in Vijayan’s office. Vijayan has acknowledged that Ravindran has known him for the past several years.

He was reportedly posted in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) by bypassing rules related to his educational qualifications and age.

A native of Kozhikode district, Ravindran has been a vital cog between the party and the top leaders of the CPI(M) and was on the personal staff of party leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan from 2006-11, when he was the Home Minister in the VS Achuthanandan government.

When Vijayan took over as the Chief Minister in 2016, Ravindran wielded major clout and his alleged close proximity with accused senior IAS officer M Sivasankar is often talked about.

Incidentally soon, after Ravindran failed to appear before the ED, the agency started a probe into several business ventures of Ravindran, based on a few complaints received by it.

The ED officials went around two dozen business establishments in Kozhikode and Kannur districts and have reportedly got several leads.

After Ravindran failed to appear for the second time, the ED asked the state Registration department to submit a list of properties owned by Ravindran.

–IANS
sg/tsb

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