In a significant development in the controversial Kerala gold smuggling case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has stated that the accused planned to smuggle maximum gold into the country during the lockdown. The accused, NIA says, conspired to damage the monetary stability of India and suspectedly used the proceeds of smuggling for financing terorrism.
The NIA made the statement in its report to the special court for trial of NIA cases in Ernakulam, for remanding accused Swapna Suresh (second accused) and Sandeep Nair (fourth accused) into judicial custody for further investigation. The report was submitted on Tuesday by C Radhakrishnan Pillai, the Chief Investigative Officer, NIA.
According to NIA, the accused including Swapna and Sandeep, “conspired together and separately at various places in Kerala to damage the monetary stability of India by destabilising the economy by smuggling large quantity of gold from abroad and it is suspected that they had used this proceeds for financing terrorism through various means.”
The NIA, however, does not call it a diplomatic bag, although the FIR by both the Customs Department (Preventive) and NIA had earlier called it a bag addressed to the UAE Consulate officer, Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili. In the remand report, NIA calls it a bag ‘camouflaged as diplomatic baggage.’
The NIA seized six phones and two laptops from Swapna. When two of the phones were unlocked, Swapna showed the NIA her chat with PS Sarith (first accused) and the UAE authorities regarding the diplomatic baggage, in which the gold was smuggled.
“Their deliberate acts of using the diplomatic baggage as a cover to transact illegal business may have serious repercussions in diplomatic relations with the UAE government and it is prejudicial to the monetary and economic security of India,” the NIA added.
During the interrogation, Swapna disclosed her association with Sarith and Sandeep, besides other associates/suspects in the case. She also revealed details about conspiring with Sarith, Sandeep and others at various locations in Thiruvananthapuram.
Swapna also revealed that she received the proceeds of the crime through Sarith, and that these amounts have been invested with various banking and non-banking channels, including safe deposit lockers in banks.
Sandeep, meanwhile, told the NIA about the places where they conspired to commit the crime and where they had received the consignment and the illegal proceeds. He revealed 11 such places where the meetings were held, said the remand report.
Notably, the NIA has also stated that another accused nabbed in the gold smuggling case by the Customs Department, Ramees KT, was one of the kingpins in the racket and had command over the alleged crime. Though at present Ramees is not an accused in NIA’s case, the agency will soon be including him in their case.
NIA says that Sandeep revealed that Ramees insisted on smuggling gold in large quantities and maximum numbers during the lockdown period “as the financial position of the country is weak”. Ramees is also suspected to have contacts abroad.
While NIA asked for the custody of Swapna and Sandeep, it also said that if the accused are released on bail, they would abscond and tamper with evidence in the case. “Their presence for further investigation and trial will not be obtained,” NIA said.
The NIA registered its FIR on July 10, Swapna and Sandeep were arrested on July 11 in Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, Swapna who moved to the NIA court for bail, claimed in the bail plea that she was made a scapegoat in the case for political gains. While stating that she has no role in smuggling the gold, Swapna in the bail plea told the court that the case itself is the “offshoot of the political rivalry between the state and the Central governments, triggered by the colourful and fictitious stories aired by the media”.
Watch smuggled gold seized by Customs officials: