The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the terror angle in the Kerala gold smuggling case, revealed on Tuesday that Faisal Fareed, one of the four main accused, was arrested by the police in the United Arab Emirates in August. The agency also said that another conspirator in the case, Rabins Hameed, who is accused of having assisted Faisal, too, has been arrested.
The NIA revealed this to the Special NIA court in Kochi while opposing the bail plea of seventh accused in the case, P Mohammed Shafi. The agency also told the court that an Interpol Blue Corner notice has been issued against six fugitives, including Fasil and Rabins, to secure their presence in India.
A native of Thrissur, Faisal allegedly played a crucial role in smuggling 30 kg gold from UAE to Thiruvananthapuram via a chartered flight in a supposedly consular bag.
In its affidavit to the court, NIA stated that the UAE authorities informed the team about the arrest during their visit to Dubai in August as part of its probe in the case, and that that strict action would be taken against all conspirators, "as the accused have attempted to damage the friendly relations between India and the UAE".
The agency said the UAE authorities had also revealed that the crime was committed by Fareed and Hameed, pursuant to the conspiracy with other accused arrested in India and absconding in the UAE, "who all had knowingly funded, facilitated and smuggled gold through diplomatic cargo of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram by forging or deceitfully obtaining authorisation certificates from UAE diplomats."
NIA said based on Non-Bailable Warrants issued by the NIA Special Court, the process has been initiated to get Interpol Blue Corner notices issued against the fugitives, including Fasil, Rabins and four other accused, Siddiqul Akbar, Ahmed Kutty, Raju alias Rathees and Mohammed Shameer, for securing their presence in India.
The agency also said Mutual Legal Assistance Request was also being finalised to obtain evidence in this case from the UAE, since a major part of the transactions, especially funding through reverse hawala and purchasing of smuggled gold, had taken place in the UAE.
"Based on the facts ascertained through investigation in India, evidence has to be collected during further visits of NIA investigators to the UAE, regarding the source of smuggled gold and the involvement of any other players, inimical to the economic security of India, in facilitating the crime from UAE," it said.
Opposing Shafi's bail plea, NIA said he was the main organiser of smuggling, along with fifth accused KP Rameez, since November 2019 and had smuggled gold 21 times through diplomatic baggage of the UAE consulate, "with the intention of threatening the economic security of India.' Rameez is said to be the mastermind behind the smuggling.
Shafi had conducted conspiracy meetings with Rameez, Hameed, accused Said Alavi and Hamsath Abu Salam and others in UAE and arranged finances, besides gold at Dubai, to be smuggled to India, the NIA said.
Central agencies, including NIA, Customs and Enforcement Directorate, are conducting a separate probe into the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from a "diplomatic baggage" at the Thiruvananthapuram International airport on July 5.
Several persons, including two former employees of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, Swapna Suresh and Sarith PS, were arrested by the central agencies in connection with the case.
When PS Sarith, the first accused in the case, was interrogated by the Customs Department (Prevention), he revealed Faisalâ€™s name. Sarith allegedly used to place orders with Faizal, who reportedly runs a provision shop in UAE. He (Faisal) used to supply, pack and forward the consular cargo as instructed by Saritha, the remand report has said. According to reports, gold was smuggled into India in a similar manner in June 2019 as well.
On Monday, the court had expressed its ire in the way the NIA had added sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the case and asked the probe team to come clean on it. The NIA court talked tough on the bail petitions of eight among the 30 people who have been arrested by the NIA. On the direction from the court, the NIA submitted the case diary on Tuesday.
(With inputs from IANS)