The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday detained two key accused in Kerala gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, from Bengaluru.
According to the reports, the two accused in the high-profile case linking the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan were on the run for the last six days after the Customs Department had seized 30 kg of gold from the consignment that had arrived from the UAE, which was marked to the country’s consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, the two accused in the case were missing, were nabbed by the NIA officials in Bengaluru on Sunday.
On Friday, the NIA had registered a case against four persons in the case, including Sarith Kumar, a former employee of the consular office, who is now in the custody of the customs as the first accused.
Swapna Suresh is the second accused while the elusive UAE-based smuggling-kingpin Fazil Pareed has been named as the third accused. Swapna Suresh’s friend Sandeep Nair is the fourth accused. The FIRs have been registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The NIA is investigating the well-structured smuggling racket and according to the FIR, Sarith and Swapna Suresh were actively involved in arranging the diplomatic papers for the delivery of the consignment. The police suspect that a good portion of money generated through smuggling was used to fund some anti-national activities.
Gold smuggling scandal rocks Kerala, links with Kerala CMO
The high-profile gold smuggling case surfaced after the Customs Department had seized 30 kg of gold from an air cargo consignment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Thiruvananthapuram last Sunday.
As customs officials interrogated Sarith, who was working as an Ex PRO for the UAE consulate, they found that Swapna Suresh used to forge the Consulate documents to take advantage of the diplomatic immunity to smuggle gold from Gulf. While Sarith was nabbed by customs and is being interrogated, the main accused Swapna Suresh is absconding.
Despite being terminated from the UAE Consulate office, Sarith was in contact with some officials, including Swapna. As diplomatic luggage is not examined, they were smuggling gold by taking advantage of Swapna’s allegedly forged credentials.
Swapna Suresh is currently working as the marketing liaison officer Space Park under the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) that comes directly under the IT department.
The alleged links of accused Swapna Suresh with Pinarayi Vijayan had also surfaced after it was reported that Vijayan’s principal secretary M Sivasankar was close to Swapna Suresh. The issue took a political tone after opposition Congress, BJP accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of involving in “shady dealings”. Later, the CM had transferred his principal secretary M Sivasankar for his alleged involvement in the gold smuggling case.
BJP, Congress ask how did the duo manage to escape
Following the arrest of Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, the opposition parties in the state have questioned how could the duo escaped the state when the state is under triple lockdown.
The opposition parties allege that the Pinarayi Vijayan government had some sort of role in their escape from the arrest by the authorities. However, they have been nabbed by the NIA officials in Bengaluru. The Pinarayi Vijayan government is facing a lot of heat over how the duo was allowed to escape from the state particularly amidst the triple lockdown.
Kerala BJP President K Surendran attacked the Pinarayi Vijayan government stating, “In certain areas in Thiruvananthapuram you need a pass to buy even a packet of milk. And in all inter-state check-posts, you need an entry pass. It is certain high-ranking officials had escorted them”. He also added that it was another blot on the state government.
Even the Congress party stepped up the attack in Kerala and sought a high-level probe. “Almost a week has passed since the case came up. Not a single FIR was filed against Swapna Suresh though many cheating incidents against her surfaced including fake degree certificate. Her escape adds to the mystery,” said Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
Meanwhile, the Kerala police have said they will investigate how Suresh and Nair escaped amid triple lockdown and travelled more than 800 kilometres.