Kerala gold smuggling case: NIA suspects accused linked to Dawood gang in Africa

NIA said that Ramees, fifth accused in the case, had revealed during custodial interrogation that he had tried to start a diamond business in Tanzania.
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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the terror link in the Kerala gold smuggling case on Wednesday indicated in a special court here that it suspected the link of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's gang in the sensational racket.

There was intelligence inputs regarding probable use of proceeds from the gold smuggling for the anti-national and terrorism activities, it said, adding the detention of all accused in judicial custody upto 180 days was absolutely necessary to carry forward the investigation in the case.

In an additional counter submitted at the Special NIA Court, the central agency strongly opposed the bail applications of all the accused arrested in connection with the case related to smuggling of gold through diplomatic channel.

The NIA said Ramees, fifth accused in the case, during custodial interrogation, has revealed that he had attempted to start a diamond business in Tanzania and that later he had attempted to obtain a gold mining licence in Tanzania.

He had also stated about having brought gold from Tanzania and the sold the same in UAE, it said. In this connection, the NIA also said that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s too has reportedly established a diamond business in the African country and that his personal assistant was reportedly a South Indian named Feroz. The agency quoted the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee's narrative summary on Dawood and fact sheet published by the US Department of Treasury specifically mentioned about his gang's activtities in Africa.

"Recent news reports have also specifically mentioned about the diamond business of Dawood Ibrahim in Tanzania, managed by his associate "Feroz", considered a south Indian by intelligence agencies", the agency said in the report, indicating the suspected link needed to be probed.

NIA also said the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB), the apex intelligence body for economic agencies in India, had sent a report to the Director General of NIA during October, 2019 regarding the probable use of proceeds from gold smuggling in Kerala, for terrorism and other anti-national activities.

The agency submitted the intelligence report to the Court in a sealed envelope.

"It is submitted that the facts now emerging during investigation, regarding the charges under Sections 17 and /or 18 of the UAPA Act against accused with otherwise apparently minor roles, indicate that the intelligence input received from CEIB, leading to NIA investigation in this crime, is gaining credence.

"This makes the investigation, by detaining all accused in judicial custody till 180 days, absolutely necessary, in this crime having transnational ramifications...," the NIA said in its counter.

In the report, NIA also said 12th accused Mohammed Ali was a member of "fundamentalist organisation Popular Front of India" and was charge-sheeted by police in the Kerala professor hand chopping case in 2010 but acquitted as more 90 prosecution witnesses had turned hostile during trial.

It said the scrutiny of data retrieved by C-DAC from the seized mobile phone of Ali has revealed that he had formatted his phone on July 19 after his role in the smuggling case surfaced.

However, from the limited data retrieved by C-DAC, pictures of paper slips depicting details of huge cash transactions amounting to several lakhs of rupees, including one transaction of Rs 15 lakhs specifically attributed to one "Jalal", have been retrieved, NIA said.

His suspicious cash transactions need to be ascertained further through custodial interrogation after advanced forensic analysis and extraction of more data from his formatted mobile phone, the agency added.

The NIA also mentions that some of the accused  - namely Sharafudheen (A13) and Ramees (A 5) had travelled to Africa and had 'explored besides trained hands at guns'. The report also points out that a case had been registered in 2019 against Ramees and others by the Customs Department of the Cochin International Airport for importing firearms without license. 

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