NIA Finds African Connection In UAE-Kerala Gold Smuggling Case
While denying bail to an accused in the UAE-Kerala gold smuggling case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has said in the court that the accused might have some connections with proscribed terrorist Dawood Ibrahim.
The NIA deposition, seen by The Lede, reads that Sharafuddeen KT, accused No 13 in the gold smuggling case, has close nexus with Ramees KT, accused No 5.
“Sharafuddeen has gone to Tanzania with Ramees. Ramees has smuggled gold to UAE from Tanzania. The NIA suspects that Ramees might have some connections with the proscribed terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, as a person named Feroz Oasis, a South Indian, is known to be in his company, and hence Sharafuddeen should not be released on bail,” the submission reads.
In July, The Lede had reported how gold is smuggled into UAE from Africa and from there to India.
A source in the NIA said that Feroz Oasis is the person who handles the front businesses of the Dawood gang.
“Most probably, Feroz handles the oil company of Dawood as in different calls, he has been referred to as Feroz Oasis. He speaks Tamil, Arabic, English and Hindi. Feroz has contacts in South India and Mumbai. As per our intelligence, Feroz is also managing Al Noor Diamonds. He is engaged in smuggling of diamonds from Africa,” the source said, adding that Ramees’ connection with Feroz leads to D-Company.
The source added that Ramees had visited Tanzania first in 2016 to start a diamond business there and he then also smuggled one kilogram of gold from Tanzania to the UAE in 2017.
Ramees was caught with 13 smuggled revolvers at the Kozhikode airport in November 2019 while returning from Dubai. Even though Ramees had claimed then that he had brought the guns for the Palakkad rifle club, the charge was denied by the rifle club.
Sharafuddeen and Ramees were taken into custody by the NIA in connection with the UAE-Kerala gold smuggling case.
On 05 July 2020, 30 kg of smuggled gold was seized by Customs officials from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The smugglers had tried to smuggle the gold through diplomatic channels in a cargo addressed to an official in the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
20 suspects are under custody of different probe agencies investigating the UAE-Kerala gold smuggling case.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Principal Secretary M Sivashankar is also being questioned by different agencies for his alleged links with gold smugglers. On Friday night, he was admitted to a private hospital by Customs officials after he showed physical uneasiness. Customs officials had approached him for questioning in the gold smuggling case.
SIMI And IS
Additionally, the NIA has said in the court that, Muhammed Ali, accused No 12, who was formerly prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, still has connections with an extremist group and that this is evident from the fact that his mobile phone contains images of SIMI members, and that there is yet another image in his mobile phone which is of a Malayalam news item that a person of Indian origin was killed in Syria, who was an ISIS terrorist.
Muhammed was one of the accused in the infamous hand chopping case of a college professor in 2010 in Kerala, despite the fact that he was acquitted by the trial court.
Meanwhile, in NIA court, the lawyers of the accused had submitted that even if their clients had funded the smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage, it would not amount to any offence under the UAPA.
According to them, an act done with the intention to cause damage to the economic security of India alone would attract the offence defined under Section 15 of the UAPA and hence, smuggling of gold per se, even if in large quantity, should be dealt with under the corresponding provisions of the Customs Act, and not under the UAPA.
It was also argued that the legislative intent behind the introduction of the clause relating to economic security in Section 15 was not to deal with smuggling of gold.
However, Arjun Ambalapatta, the learned Senior Public Prosecutor for NIA, said that the NIA had registered the FIR with an apprehension that the proceeds of gold smuggled might be used for terrorism and it was done not on the basis of mere suspicion, but it was well founded on a report given by the Additional Director General of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau to the Director General of NIA, on 28 October 2019.
He further pointed out that, as per the said letter, the Bureau apprehended that smuggling of gold through Kozhikode Airport might have possible ramifications on national security, as it might have links to terror financing.
He also submitted that Faisal Fareed, accused No 3, would be brought to India from UAE any day now and hence, the NIA requires the custody of the petitioners for making a joint interrogation of the accused, especially when digital evidence seized from them has not been forensically retrieved, so far.
According to NIA, smuggling gold in huge quantities would certainly damage the economy of our nation and if it reaches terrorist forces as apprehended by the Agency, it would damage the security of India itself.
In the wake of these disclosures, Minister of State at Ministry of External Affairs V Muraleedharan tweeted, “@NIA_India revealed about Dawood Ibrahim's connections with the accused in #KeralaGoldScam. It is a grave matter & substantiates the #UAPA charges levelled against the accused & their links to terror groups. I am sure that the NIA & @HMOIndia will take appropriate action.”
He also blamed Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan for providing patronage to smugglers and anti-national elements, in addition to providing security to criminals.
“@NIA_India's revelations expose the patronage given to smugglers & anti-national elements in @CMOKerala & how @VijayanPinarayi has been sheltering criminals. CMO has become a safe-haven for such elements. Kerala CM must resign!” the minister stated.