Ernakulam: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday informed Kerala High Court that it has filed a First Information Report on Kerala’s controversial gold smuggling case, the first in the country where a consignment of gold was seized while moving through a diplomatic route.
Four people, including Swapna Suresh, the controversial woman who was allegedly interacting with top government officials and was posted as a subsidiary of the IT Department recently, are booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA in the FIR.
The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg of gold worth ₹14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport on 5 July by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin. The gold was found concealed in imported piping in diplomatic baggage from United Arab Emirates, which is exempted from inspection as per the international guidelines.
As per the FIR, Suresh, a former secretary to the Consul General of United Arab Emirates Consulate in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, is the second accused in the case. The first accused is Sarith P.S., a former Public Relations Officer at the Consulate, who is said to be close to Suresh. Another person, Fazil Fareed from Ernakulum district, and Sarith’s brother Sandeep Nair and are the third and fourth accused persons.
“Initial investigation by Customs Department has revealed that Sarith P.S. had received multiple such consignments earlier as well. As the case pertains to smuggling of large quantity of gold into India from offshore locations threatening the economic stability and national security of the country, it amounts to a terrorist act as stated in section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967,” said the FIR.
“Further, as the case has national and international linkages and as the initial enquiries have revealed that the proceeds of smuggled gold could be used for financing of terrorism in India, NIA has taken up the investigation of the case,” it added.
Meanwhile, breaking Covid-19 protocols, Kerala boiled with opposition protests over the case on Friday, which broke into violence in some cities. Opposition leaders alleged that the smuggling case is linked to the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office, and demanded resignation of Vijayan. The government had on Tuesday displaced M. Sivasankar, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and the IT department, after he was accused to be close to Suresh.
Swapna Suresh, who is absconding, claimed innocence in an anticipatory bail plea heard by Kerala high court on Friday. She alleged that she was directed to enquire about the seized cargo by an officer at the consulate. The consulate had denied it. The bail plea was postponed to next Tuesday.