Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: NIA Files Chargesheet Against 20 Accused
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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday filed a chargesheet against 20 accused before a special court over their alleged involvement in smuggling 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in a diplomatic baggage into Kerala.
The accused, including Sarith PS and Swapna Prabha Suresh, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Sarith, a former public relations officer at the UAE consulate, is the first accused in the case, while Swapna, former secretary to the Consulate General, is the second accused. Sandeep Nair who was arrested along with Swapna turned approver.
The case was registered after the seizure of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore on July 5 last year from a diplomatic baggage at the air cargo of the Trivandrum International Airport by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin. The import cargo was addressed to charge d’ affaires at the Consulate General of the UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.
Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru on July 11 last year. During investigation, 31 others, who allegedly conspired and financed the gold smuggling besides facilitating the disposal of the contraband and transfer of proceeds to the UAE through hawala channels, were arraigned as accused in the case. So far, 21 accused have been arrested by the NIA, while eight are absconding.
The NIA investigation also alleged that the accused had knowingly conspired since June 2019, raised funds and smuggled around 167 kg gold from UAE between November 2019 and June 2020 through the import cargo addressed to diplomats at the Consulate General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.
The case took a political turn when former principal secretary to the CM, M Shivashankar, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate and Customs. State minority affairs minister KT Jaleel was also questioned by the investigation agencies in connection with the case. The opposition had demanded the resignation of CM Pinarayi Vijayan, alleging that the CMO had tried to help the accused.
Hitting back, Pinarayi Vijayan said that the investigation agencies were trying to sabotage the development of the state. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CM said central agencies are conducting "fishing and roving enquiries" to defame the state’s political leadership.