2 key accused in gold smuggling case brought to Kerala

PTI, Jul 12, 2020, 3:27 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: The two key accused in the gold smuggling case in Kerala, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, were brought to the state on Sunday, a day after being taken into custody by the NIA in Bengaluru, as Congress workers staged protests against them at several places.

They were taken to the Aluva hospital in Ernakulam for the mandatory COVID-19 test before being produced in the NIA court in Kochi, official sources said.

Congress and BJP attacked the LDF government, seeking to know how the prime accused could flee the state capital when a triple lockdown was in place to check the coronavirus spread.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday took into custody Suresh and Nair, both on the run, in connection with the bid to smuggle over 30 kg of gold using diplomatic channel through the Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, and Nair are among the four people booked by the central agency in connection with the case of smuggling of the gold which arrived in diplomatic baggage at the airport and seized by the Customs on July 5.

The two were taken into custody a day after the NIA began investigations in the case following a Union HomeMinistry order.

On Sunday, Youth Congress workers held a protest at the Walayar check-post on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border in Palakkad district as the two accused were brought to the state.

The Congress workers staged a protest at Paliyekkara Toll plaza in Thrissur district and also gathered near the Aluva hospital.

The opposition party has been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the case as the woman was found employed in the state I-T department and sacked after her name was linked to the smuggling bid.

Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala on Sunday lashed out at the state government, seeking to know how the key accused escaped to Bengaluru from Thiruvananthapuram, where a triple lockdown has been implemented from July 6.

“How can they reach Bengaluru without the help of top officials of the state government?” he asked.

He also asked why the state government was not suspending former IT secretary M Sivashankar despite serious allegations against him.

Sivasankar, also removed as the secretary to the Chief Minister, has gone on one-year leave after the action, amid allegations that he had close links with the woman accused.

BJP state chief K Surendran slammed the state government and asked how the Kerala police which stops the common man from traveling “aided in the escape” of the accused.

Vijayan has maintained his government would not protect anyone involved in the case and welcomed the NIA probe.

Swapna, Sarith, and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram and Fazil Fareed of Ernakulam have been arraigned as accused in the case by the NIA, which along with the Customs, has opposed the anticipatory bail plea of the woman in the high court.

Sarith, also a former employee of UAE consulate, has already been arrested by the Customs (Preventive) Department.

The NIA had on Friday registered the FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and said that it has taken up the probe as the case has international linkages and as the initial inquiries have revealed the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India.

Also, as the case pertains to smuggling of a 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 the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The development came two days after Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his “intervention for an effective investigation” amid the opposition demand for a CBI probe.

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