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NIA takes up investigation of Kerala gold smuggling case
Thiruvananthapuram, July 10, 2020
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) today took up investigation of the Kerala gold smuggling case with the registration of a first information report (FIR) against four accused persons -- Sarith P.S.; Swapna Prabha Suresh, Fazil Fareed and Sandeep Nair.
The FIR, filed under sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth Rs. 14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport on July 5 by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin.
The aforesaid consignment was found camouflaged in diplomatic baggage from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that is exempted from inspection as per the Vienna Convention. The said consignment was to be received by Sarith, who had worked in the UAE Consulate here earlier as Public Relations Officer.
A press release from NIA said initial investigation by Customs Department has revealed that Sarith 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. 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," the release added.
While Sarith, Swapna and Sandeep are residents of Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, Fazil is a resident of Ernakulam.
The case has rocked the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state after it came to light that the high-profile had rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty in the state and was close to Vijayan's now ousted secretary and senior IAS officer M Sivasankar.
On Friday, the NIA submitted its chargesheet against the accused in the Kerala High Court, following the anticipatory bail plea filed by Swapna.
After the NIA strongly opposed it, the court didn't accept her plea and posted the matter for Tuesday and directed that a copy of the chargesheet be given to her.
Sarith and Swapna were former colleagues at the UAE Consulate and later, Swapna joined a high-profile job attached to the IT department, where Sivasankar was the Secretary.
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that Swapna's degree certificate is forged and according to her own brother, he is not aware if she had even passed Class X.
The case has heated up the political scene in Kerala and senior Congress leaders from the state on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order a NIA-CBI-RAW probe into the gold smuggling case.
The party has already demanded that Vijayan should resign and held protests across the state despite the COVID-19 protocols in place.