The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is currently probing the controversial Kerala gold smuggling case, has revealed that accused number five, Ramees KT, has a history of crimes involving smuggling gold and wildlife. The investigation agency also said that Ramees used to meet PS Sarith (first accused), Swapna Suresh (second accused) and Sandeep Nair (fourth accused) at various locations and multiple times to carry out the crime of smuggling 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.8 crore via a consular cargo in late June.
Based on the investigation so far, NIA said that Ramees, one of the kingpins of the smuggling crime, has been involved in two gold smuggling cases dating back to 2015 and 2014. He is an accused in the 2015 case, where he smuggled gold worth 17 kg at Calicut Airport. Ramees and Sandeep have been convicted in the 2014 case for smuggling gold worth 3.5 kg through the Thiruvananthapuram airport.
Ramees also possessed a gun, which he used in a crime at the Walayar Forest Range in 2014. He was booked for offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; and provisions under the Arms Act, 1959 for hunting and trespassing.
Considering his criminal antecedents, the NIA suspects that Ramees may be involved in more unlawful activities as he has criminal antecedents. Sandeep had earlier stated that Ramees insisted on smuggling the gold in large quantities, maximum during the lockdown period.
According to NIA, Sarith and Swapna knew about the possibility of smuggling gold through diplomatic channels in 2019, when they were working in the UAE Consulate. They intimated the same to the other accused and they colluded and conspired to make use of this channel to smuggle gold along with material genuinely required by the foreign diplomats at the Consulate. Accordingly, Faisal Fareed (fourth accused), who is based in UAE, packed the gold into various materials, neatly hidden and submitted the baggage to the Air Cargo authorities in UAE.
In November 2019, Sarith had collected a similar bag of gold, while Sandeep and Ramees opened it later. â€śThe gold was then handed over to persons known and directed by Ramees to be used in lieu of cash for unlawful activities, including funding such activities,â€ť the NIA said.
The five accused smuggled about 200 kg gold worth Rs 100 crore around 20 times between November 2019 and January 2020, NIA alleges.
While countering Swapnaâ€™s bail petition, the NIA informed the special court for NIA cases in Ernakulam that Ramees had stayed at Swapnaâ€™s apartment, Heather Heights, in Thiruvananthapuram on June 30 when the controversial gold consignment arrived at the airport from the United Arab Emirates. This is the apartment near the Kerala Secretariat that former Principal Secretary to Kerala CM, Sivasankar IAS has been accused of helping Swapna rent out.
According to the NIA, Ramees also met Sarith, Swapna and Sandeep to get the consignment released as the Customs Commissioner had withheld the cargo over suspicion.
So far, the NIA has arrested 12 persons in the case, and further investigation in the case is going on.