Udayavni Special

Kerala gold smuggling case: HC to hear bail pleas in NIA case on July 29


PTI, Jul 16, 2021, 4:54 PM IST

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Friday said it will hear on July 29 all the bail pleas of the accused, including Swapna Suresh, in a case registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with last year”s sensational gold smuggling case where it was attempted to be sneaked into the country through diplomatic channel.

Opposing any relief to the accused, the NIA told the court that Suresh and the others committed a terrorist act by smuggling 167 kg of gold into India from UAE between November 2019 to June 2020.

A bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and Ziyad Rahman A A said it had on Thursday listed similar matters for hearing on July 29 to await the Supreme Court”s decision in related pleas.

Suresh has approached the high court against the NIA court order denying bail.

Opposing her plea, NIA has filed its statement of objections regarding the same.

The NIA told the court that Swapna Suresh and the others committed a terrorist act by smuggling 167 kg of gold into India from UAE between November 2019 to June 2020 as they knew that doing so would threaten the security and economic stability of the country.

In her bail application, Suresh has said the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case against her will not stand the test of law. She has also said the trial in the case was prolonging endlessly.

The bail applications of seven accused in the case, including Suresh, K T Ramees, Sandeep Nair and P S Sarith, were dismissed by the NIA Special court on March 22.

Various central investigating agencies are probing the gold smuggling case after nearly 15 kg of gold was seized at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5, 2020 from a diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate there.

Meanwhile, the NIA has also told the high court that Suresh and others were aware their actions would damage India”s relations with UAE and therefore, the offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for terrorist act, conspiracy and being part of a terror organisation are made out.

The agency”s submissions were made opposing the bail application of Suresh, represented by advocate Sooraj T Elenjickal, who approached the high court against the NIA court order dismissing her plea for bail.

During the hearing on Friday before a bench of Justices Vinod Chandran and Ziyad Rahman, Elenjickal said his client has been in custody for over a year.

The lawyer made the submission after the bench said it was adjourning Suresh”s plea to July 29 when similar pleas of some other accused in the NIA case had been listed.

The pleas of Suresh and some others were adjourned by the bench to July 29 to await the decision of the Supreme Court in NIA”s appeal against the bail granted earlier by the trial court and the high court to another batch of accused in the case.

Opposing Suresh”s bail plea, the agency has alleged, “Investigation conducted by NIA has established that prime accused Sarith, co-accused Swapna Suresh and others, with the knowledge that their act of smuggling of gold in to India in large quantity would threaten the security and economic security of the country, destabilise the Indian economy and damage the friendly relations with UAE, conjointly committed the terrorist act.”

NIA has also alleged that for committing the terrorist act, the accused had conspired together, recruited people, formed a terrorist group, raised funds and smuggled around 167 kg of gold from UAE between November 2019 to June 2020 through import cargo addressed to the diplomats at the Consulate General of UAE at Thiruvananthapuram.

The agency has also said that a request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with UAE has been sent to that country for obtaining evidence from there as “a major part of the transactions, especially funding through reverse hawala and purchase of smuggled gold, had occurred in UAE”.

It has contended that release of the accused, including Swapna Suresh, on bail would seriously hamper the ongoing investigation in the case as they could tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses.

“Further the appellant (Suresh) has high connections both within the country as well as abroad, which will be used to abscond from the process of law,” NIA has claimed.

In her plea, Suresh has contended that she was falsely implicated in it and she has been granted bail in the customs and PMLA cases related to the very same alleged criminal activity of gold smuggling.

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