After around a week of being on the run, the prime accused in the sensational Kerala gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, were nabbed by the National Investigation Agency from a Bengaluru hotel on Saturday night. Reportedly, phone calls made by the two accused and their families aided the NIA to trace the accused to Bengaluru.
According to sources, Swapna, her family and Sandeep reached Bengaluru two days back in a car, from Kerala. However, it is not yet known how the accused managed to exit Kerala, evading the police checks at the state borders and other routine checks currently in place due to the COVID-19 regulations.
It is learned that they first checked into a hotel in BTM layout and later shifted to Octave Studio Hotel in Koramangala. They had been on the hideout there in two rooms. The NIA officials recovered passports, three mobile phones and Rs 2.5 lakhs from them.
Swapna and Sandeep were nabbed by the NIA from Octave Studio Hotel at around 7 pm on Saturday. Her husband and two children were also found to be along with her in the hideout.
Accused Swapna and Sandeep with NIA officials
Ever since the name of both Sandeep and Swapna came up in the case, both have been absconding. According to reports, some phone calls the accused made were instrumental in aiding the NIA in tracking them down in Bengaluru.
As per reports, during a raid conducted by the Customs Department at Sandeep’s house at Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, his brother received a call from Bengaluru. Though he told the officials that the caller was an advocate from Bengaluru, the Customs officials shared the contact number with NIA officials, and that helped trace Sandeep’s location.
Meanwhile, Swapna’s daughter, who is reportedly a college student, also had made a phone call to a friend in Thiruvananthapuram, reports The Hindu. The officials had already kept track of this person for information on Swapna and her family, who had been absconding.
The two accused are expected to be brought to Kochi on Sunday. But it is not clear if they will be presented before the NIA court in Karnataka before being brought back.
The news about the two accused being taken into custody came a few minutes after Kerala police chief Loknath Behera constituted a special team to assist NIA and Customs to nab the absconding accused.
While Sandeep's exact role in the smuggling ring is not clear, he was named as an accompolice by Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate, who was also arrested earlier this week. Swapna was working as the Secretary of the Consulate General in Thiruvananthapuram on a "work-on-demand basis". Swapna is the one who contacted airport officials to know the status of the diplomatic baggage where the 30 kilograms of gold was seized from.
Kerala has been on the boil with the Congress and its allies and the BJP staging protests targeting the left government and demanding chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's resignation after the woman was found to be working in the state IT department, a portfolio held by Vijayan, and sacked after her name surfaced in connection with the smuggling.
The NIA had on Friday registered the FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and said it has taken up the probe as the case has international linkages and as the initial inquiries have revealed the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India.
(With inputs from PTI)