In a stunning revelation in the Kerala Smuggling case, the National Investigation Agency investigating the smuggling of the gold has found that the racket had managed to bring in 1.5 quintal (150 kgs) of gold in the country through diplomatic channels at Thiruvananthapuram airport since September 2019. The NIA had further disclosed that the smuggling of gold was not done for jewellery but funding terrorist activities in India.
On Monday, NIA remanded the suspects– Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, who worked for the UAE consulate, in the agency’s custody till July 21. The NIA has also found that the accused had forged UAE’s emblem to send the gold consignments.
Gold smuggling started in September 2019
“As per the preliminary investigation carried out by several agencies, the gang had been smuggling gold since September 2019. They had smuggled around 150 kgs of gold till date. The interrogation of the suspects will shed more light on their modus operandi and the other people involved,” said a source quoted by New Indian Express.
While the agency is yet to be sure if the diplomatic channel was the only means through which the accused smuggled in the gold, the authorities privy to the details of the smuggling case have revealed that the same racket had been involved in handling the gold consignments through the same route on June 24 and June 26 too.
The NIA on Monday deposed in the court that 9 and 18 kilos of gold were smuggled through the same route right before the seizure of 30 kgs of gold at Thiruvananthapuram airport. It also added that the smuggling started in 2019 and the accused used diplomatic channels to ship the gold to beat the artificial intelligence-based scanners at the airport.
Gold smuggling linked to funding terror activities
The NIA had added that an initial probe by the Ministry of Home Affairs had conducted an initial probe and found that the smuggled gold was used for funding terror activities.
Responding to the court’s query on how a smuggling incident can be linked funding terror activities, the counsel representing agency argued that illegal activity of such high-level sophistication is a threat to the nation’s financial stability. In contrast to hawala and counterfeit money, a single bid of gold smuggling can garner a huge amount.
According to the NIA, a detailed investigation is required as it concerns the India-UAE bilateral relationship. The UAE has also launched a probe into the matter.
One of the accused—Sandeep Nair deposed in the court that the consignment was addressed to a UAE diplomat named Rashid Al Sheimeili and raised questions over why was the diplomat not being interrogated in this regard.
Malappuram-based businessman K T Rameez arrested in the case
The high-profile case linking the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also saw the arrest of one KT Rameez, a Malappuram-based businessman, believed to be the lynchpin of the gold smuggling racket.
Rameez was nabbed from his residence at Vettathoor near Perinthalmanna in the early morning on July 12, and his arrest would further expedite the probe. Rameez is an investor and a distributor of smuggled gold in the state, and the customs officials expect that his custodial interrogation could provide further details of investors in the gold smuggling racket. They believe that Rameez may have details of other people involved in the coordination of the smuggling, along with the extent of the involvement of Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair.
Rameez is said to be an investor and a distributor of smuggled gold in the state and custom officials are hoping that his custodial interrogation could provide furthers details of investors in the gold smuggling racket and key personnel involved in coordinating the smuggling, and the extent of involvement of Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair.
Kerala gold smuggling case accused arrested from Bengaluru
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.