Gold Smuggling Case: Swapna Got Commission For Project To Rebuild Flood Hit Homes
Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the ‘diplomatic gold’ smuggling case in Kerala, had got commission for the renovation of 150 homes in Kerala during Kerala floods in 2018, a statement given by her to the Assistant Director of Enforcement in Cochin, reveals.
In the statement which The Lede has seen, she reveals that she had got commissions from UAFX Solutions Private and Forth Force (background verification company for Police clearance certificate) which had the visa stamping contract at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
She has added in the statement that, she had got commissions from Unitac Builders and Sane Ventures for the construction of 150 flats and a medical centre for the homeless in Thrissur, and also for the renovation of 150 homes damaged in the 2018 floods in Kerala.
On July 05, 30 kg of smuggled gold was seized from a consignment addressed to an official in the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram by Air Customs.
Swapna, her friends Sandeep Nair, Sarith S, and a few others were arrested following the gold seizure.
Smuggled 21 Times
While admitting that her part in the gold smuggling was to help facilitate the smuggling by "assuring that the Consulate knew about gold smuggling using diplomatic cargo", Swapna has revealed that they had smuggled gold 21 times since November 2019.
Detailing the modus operandi, she said that somewhere in the middle of 2019, through Sandeep, a person named KT Ramees had inquired if diplomatic cargo could be utilised for smuggling contraband items like gold.
Currently, Ramees is under custody in connection with gold smuggling.
“Sarith and I knew that diplomatic cargo is immune to Customs examination and we had discussed the matter with Sandeep on an earlier occasion. After initial discussions with Sandeep, myself, Sarith and Ramees met together in July and discussed the modalities to successfully smuggle gold using diplomatic cargo,” she has said.
“We had arranged for two trial consignments on the request of financiers of gold to prove that the consignment would not be examined by the Customs,” she has added.
To bring in the cargo in the name of the Consulate, an authorisation in the name of the consignor at UAE along with a copy of the diplomatic passport and visa needs to be sent to the consignor.
“For consigning the trial consignments, to my knowledge, Sarith forged the required documents and seals used at the Consulate were affixed on the documents. Both the trial consignments were cleared by the Customs without any examination,” Swapna has said adding that after successful trial runs, during October 2019, Ramees contacted Sandeep for going ahead in smuggling gold into India using diplomatic cargo.
The statement adds that Sarith forged the authorisation letter in the name of a person suggested by Ramees.
“The first consignment with 5 kg of smuggled gold came in the first week of November 2019 which was cleared by the Customs. Sarith and I handed over the gold to Sandeep in Kowdiar (a place near Kerala Museum in Thiruvananthapuram),” she added.
According to Swapna, gold was smuggled four times in November 2019.
In December 2019, gold was smuggled 12 times as well as once each in January 2020 and March 2020. Gold was smuggled twice in June this year as well.
Quoting Ramees, Swapna has said in the statement that in all, 83 kg of gold was smuggled 21 times.
However, she stated that while she got commission for 83 kg of smuggled gold, she suspects that Ramees may have smuggled in more and lied to her about the same.
“I understand that Ramees might have smuggled in around 166.882 Kgs (approx.) including the seized gold of 30.050 Kgs on 05th July 2020. Thus, I came to realise that Ramees and Sandeep Nair never disclosed the actual weight of gold smuggled by them through the diplomatic baggage during the past 21 times,” she added.
About the commission for gold smuggling, Swapna has said in the statement that she had received Rs 69 lakh for smuggling gold 20 times.
She also has added that USD 1500 equivalent to Rs 1,08,000 each was given to Rashid Khamis, the then Admin Attaché of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram for the last two consignments.
Introduced By CM
When she was arrested by NIA from Bangalore, Swapna was the Operations Manager of Space Park, a project under Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL).
KSITIL comes under the Kerala state IT department. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan holds the IT portfolio and his principal secretary M Sivashankar IAS was heading the IT department.
Following media reports on Shankar’s connection with Swapna, he was suspended from the office and he is also being grilled by different agencies several times.
According to Swapna, in 2017, during one of the private meetings between the Consul General of UAE Consulate, Trivandrum, and the CM at his official residence, the CM had unofficially informed her that Sivashankar would be the point of contact between Kerala and the UAE Consulate.
“Thereafter, for all matters related to the UAE Consulate, Sivashankar used to call me as I was the secretary to the Consul General. Similarly, I used to contact him for all the official matters related to the UAE Consulate and thereby we developed our relation,” she has said.
Swapna was an outsourced staff recruited by PriceWaterHouseCoopers Pvt Ltd (PWC), Bangalore, at Space Park.
According to Swapna, Sivashankar told her about the Space Park project and asked her to meet Jayashankar, managing director at KSITIL, and Santhosh, Special Officer Space Park to discuss if there was an opening in Space Park which would require her skillset.
“Thereafter, one Sudeep Das from PricewaterhouseCoopers Pvt Ltd contacted me and conducted a telephonic interview and informed me that the concerned would get in touch with me. Thereafter, I received the offer letter from Vision Technologies Pvt Ltd,” Swapna had said.
Vision Technologies is a recruitment company.
Kerala Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel and CPIM state general secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri were questioned by NIA and ED last week in connection with Swapna and money laundering respectively.