NIA To Court: 30 Kg Gold Was Smuggled For “Terror Funding”
Gold smugglers have made a fake emblem of the United Arab Emirates Consulate to courier gold from Dubai to Kerala in a consignment addressed to the Consulate official, according to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). This statement was made before the special court for NIA and CBI cases in Kochi.
“Gold was not smuggled for jewellery. It was smuggled for terrorism. Culprits have faked UAE Consulate emblem to courier the consignment from Dubai. They have made UAE Consulate’s seal too,” the NIA told the court adding that the documents were forged in the UAE.
Former Kerala High Court Judge B Kemal Pasha told The Lede that when NIA is linking terrorism to gold smuggling, they are quoting Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
"In Chapter IV, section 15 Terrorist Act, section 3a, states that damage to the monetary stability by way of production or smuggling or circulation of counterfeit Indian currency or any other material... commits a terror act," the former judge told The Lede.
"So, they have not erred in framing terror charges," the justice who has also been in several courts of special investigation agencies added.
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.
NIA presented Swapna Suresh, a contract employee in Kerala IT department’s Kerala Start-Up Mission office and Sandeep Nair, a Thiruvananthapuram-based businessman, before the NIA court in Kochi in connection with the gold smuggling case seeking their custody.
While working with the Kerala IT department, Swapna was also working for the UAE Consulate in Kerala on a request/informal basis. She was earlier employed with the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram till December 2019 before joining the Kerala IT department.
The NIA Court in Kochi admitted the NIA plea and has sent suspects into custody till July 21.
Additionally, the NIA also has said that a bag seized from Sandeep Nair, the accomplice of Swapna, may contain vital information and it has to be opened in the presence of the court.
Swapna and Sandeep were arrested by NIA from Bangalore on Saturday. Swapna and Sandeep had fled Kerala to evade arrest.
The NIA sleuths got to know about Swapna’s location by Saturday afternoon after her daughter switched on the phone.
Meanwhile, Sandeep had requested in the NIA court that the Consulate official whose address was mentioned in the consignment and the clearing agent should also be included in the crime list.
He has reportedly told the court that without the Consulate official’s ID, the consignment cannot be couriered.
PS Sarith Kumar, a former PRO at UAE Consulate in Kerala, was taken into custody on July 05 itself.
Sarith had tried to get the consignment in which gold was concealed from Thiruvananthapuram airport. And when he was caught, he had named Swapna.
Apart from those named in the FIR, the special investigation team from Customs, on Sunday, nabbed KT Rameez, suspected to be a key link in the smuggling racket in Kerala.
Customs officers believe Rameez can provide details of investors in the gold smuggling racket, people coordinating the smuggling, and the involvement of Swapna and Sandeep. Rameez is suspected to be an investor and a distributor of smuggled gold in the state.
Meanwhile, the Indian National Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party have launched protests in Kerala seeking to know how Swapna could flee the state capital when a triple lockdown was in place to check COVID-19 spread.
The high-power committee of the Congress-led United Democratic Front has decided to bring in a no-confidence motion against the Communist-led Left Democratic Front government following their failure to nab the suspects in the gold smuggling case.
The UDF leadership has also decided to bring a resolution to oust Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan owing to his association with the suspects, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair.
UDF convener Benny Behanan and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said after the meeting, that the leadership has decided to intensify their protest against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan demanding his resignation.
"Pinarayi helped the suspects in the gold smuggling case to evade arrest which saw them escaping to Bengaluru. How could Swapna Suresh escape from Kerala when the capital city is facing a triple lockdown? The chief minister and the speaker should step down from office. Pinarayi is also helping the tainted bureaucrat M Shivasankar. We have decided to bring in a no-confidence motion against the LDF government on the floor of the Assembly," said Benny Behanan.
The state government had removed senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was the secretary to the Chief Minister and the IT secretary, following allegations that he had close links with Swapna.
In Tamil Nadu, Kochi customs officials arrived at Coimbatore early Monday morning at Thiruvathirainagar.
They were reportedly questioning a friend of one of the accused in the gold smuggling case, although it is not clear which one of the four accused they were trailing.
(With inputs from A Joseph in Coimbatore)