Key accused in Kerala gold smuggling case ready to turn approver

PTI, Sep 30, 2020, 10:13 PM IST

Kochi: A key accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case on Wednesday moved a plea in the Special NIA court here, expressing his willingness to turn approver.

Moving the plea, fourth accused Sandeep Nair, who was arrested by NIA from Bengaluru along with prime accused Swapna Suresh, said he was ready to disclose the facts under Section 164 of the CrPC.

Under this section, any metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation.

Nair said he was very well aware that the statement he would give would be treated as evidence also against him.

Multiple agencies including NIA, Customs and Enforcement Directorate are probing the case of smuggling of gold worth over Rs 100 crore through diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram since November last year.

Swapna Suresh and Sarith were former employees of the UAE consulate and allegedly used their past connection to smuggle gold using the diplomatic channel.

The Customs is also probing whether M Sivasankar, who was removed as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and also IT Secretary after allegations surfaced that he had links with Swapna Suresh, had used his office to provide any help to the key accused.

The NIA had registered the case under Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 against four accused – Sarith, Swapna Suresh, Faizal Fareed and Sandeep Nair on July 10.

Suresh and Nair were arrested on July 11 from Bengaluru after they absconded from their homes in Thiruvananthapuram.

NIA had said their probe revealed that Suresh is one of the prime accused who had conspired and facilitated the smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage of the UAE consulate, Thiruvananthapuram on many occasions with other accused and associates.

She had disclosed about his associations with other accused and associates, besides suspects involved in financing the smuggling of gold, the agency said.

She was also questioned by NIA about the ‘incriminating contents’ of retrieved data from the digital devices seized by the agency.

NIA has said their investigation so far revealed that the accused had conspired and sourced gold in large quantities from abroad on multiple occasions earlier and smuggled them through various airports, especially in Kerala.

It said their probe also revealed the larger conspiracy involving influential people both in India and abroad behind the crime.

NIA suspects that the profit from the proceeds of smuggling could be used for terror funding.

During the course of the investigation, NIA arraigned 26 others as accused in the case, many of whom were arrested.

The agency’s probe also revealed that the absconding accused – Faizal Fareed, Rabins, Sidhiqul Akbar, Ahamed Kutty, Raju and Muhammed Shameer – are in the UAE.

The NIA said it has initiated steps to issue blue corner notices against the absconding accused through INTERPOL to secure them for investigation.

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