Kerala Gold-smuggling case:NIA files chargesheet against 20 accused under UAPA

Pramesh S Jain

The NIA on Tuesday filed a chargesheet against 20 people before a special court here for their alleged involvement in smuggling 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in diplomatic baggage into Kerala,an official said.

All the accused,including Sarith PS and main accused Swapna Prabha Suresh,both residents of Thiruvananthapuram,have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), an NIA spokesperson said.

Suresh and Sarith were former employees of the UAE consulate and they allegedly used their past connection to smuggle gold using the diplomatic channel,the official said.

Ramees KT,Jalal AM,Mohammed Shafi P, Saidalavi E,Abdu PT, Rabins Hameed, Muhammedali Ebrahim,Muhammedali, Sharafuddeen KT,Mohammed Shafeeq A, Hamzath Abdulsalam,Samju TM, Hamjad Ali K, Jifsal CV,Aboobacker P,Muhammed Abdu Shameem KV,Abdul Hameed and Shamshudeen have also been named in the chargesheet.

The case was registered by the NIA on July 10, 2020 against Sarith,Swapna,Faisal Fareed, Sandeep Nair and others under sections of the UA (P)Act after the seizure of around 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore on July 5, 2020 at Trivandrum International Airport by Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate,Kochi,from the import cargo addressed to the Charge D’Affaires at the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Thiruvananthapuram.

Absconding accused Suresh and Sandeep were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru on July 11, 2020.

During investigation,31 more people,who had conspired and financed gold smuggling besides facilitating the disposal of the contraband and transfer of proceeds thereof to the UAE through hawala channels,for purchasing and smuggling more gold, with the intention of threatening the economic security of India,were arraigned as accused in the case.

So far,21 accused have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case, while eight are absconding.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg of gold on July 5 last year from a diplomatic baggage at the air cargo of the Trivandrum International Airport by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate,Kochi.

The NIA investigation revealed that the accused had knowingly conspired since June 2019,raised funds and smuggled around 167 kg of gold into the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) between November 2019 and June 2020 through the import cargo addressed to diplomats at the Consulate General of the UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.

The main accused in the case had planned to smuggle more gold from countries such as Bahrain,Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

The consignment was found camouflaged in a diplomatic baggage from the UAE that is exempted from inspection in accordance with the Vienna Convention.

Besides the NIA,the ED the Customs and the Income Tax Department probed the accused involved in the case.

In July,the NIA had told a special court in Kochi that Suresh,Nair and others conspired to damage the country’s monetary stability by smuggling large quantity of gold from abroad.

In a report submitted to the court,the NIA also said it is suspected that the accused had used the proceeds of smuggling for financing terrorism through various means.

The accused deliberately used the diplomatic baggage of the UAE as a cover to transact illegal business and it may have serious repercussions in India’s diplomatic relations with the UAE government and it is prejudicial to the monetary and economic security of India as well,the NIA said.

IAS officer M Sivasakar was removed as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state IT Secretary over his alleged links with Suresh and other accused in the case.

The probe against the absconding accused and others who had facilitated them is on,the NIA said.