The National Investigation Agency on Friday filed a first information report against four accused to investigate the Kerala gold smuggling case, NDTV reported. This came a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs gave the agency the go-ahead to inquire into the matter.
On July 5, gold weighing 30 kgs concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by the Customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore.
In a statement, the NIA said it filed the case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Swapna Prabha Suresh, Sarith, Fazil Fareed and Sandeep Nair. “As the case pertains to smuggling of large quantity of gold into India from offshore locations threatening the economic stability and national security of the country, it amounts to a terrorist act as stated in section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967,” it added. “Further, as the case has national and international linkages and as the initial enquiries have revealed that the proceeds of smuggled gold could be used for financing of terrorism in India...”
Meanwhile, the Centre has opposed the anticipatory bail plea filed by Suresh in Kerala High Court. Sarith and Suresh worked at the consulate-general’s office until six months ago. Later, the state government had appointed Suresh as marketing liaison officer of the Space Park project under the IT Department’s Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. Her contract was terminated after the allegations surfaced. A senior Indian Administrative Service official M Sivasankar was also removed as the principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after Opposition leaders questioned Sivasankar’s alleged association with Suresh.
“From the evidence gathered so far it appears that Swapna Suresh is a pivotal member of a gang engaged in smuggling of large quantities of gold to India by defrauding government agencies and customs department by using the cover of diplomatic protection and further she has conspired and actively participated to facilitate the act of smuggling,” the Customs Department said in a report submitted to the court.
The report added that Suresh is absconding and avoiding summons to escape the investigation. The Customs also said another accused, Sarith, had devised a clear method of running the scam. He would take deliveries of contraband cargo in his own car, instead of the usual practice of consulate vehicles, they alleged.
On Wednesday, Vijayan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an “effective and coordinated” investigation by all central agencies regarding the seizure of gold.