Kerala gold smuggling case unravels

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JUL 19 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 7/19/2020 12:50:15 PM IST

 At least 230 kg of gold was smuggled into the country by using some employees of the United Arab Emirates diplomatic mission since July 2019, said a senior officer familiar with the probe led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the seizure of 30 kg of the yellow metal from the Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5.

“At least 13 such consignments came to the country in one year and they all passed without any check due to diplomatic immunity. Some of them were heavier than the latest consignment which weighed 70 kg. We are also probing some events organised by state government departments,” the official said on Sunday.

All these consignments landed in Thiruvananthapuram. The NIA has arrested four persons while the Customs have nabbed 13 people so far in connection with the gold smuggling case. The official also said that people whose names have cropped up during the questioning of the accused will be summoned.

This includes Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former secretary M Sivasankar and the government’s former IT Fellow Arun Balachandran. Last week, the Customs department had grilled Sivasankar for nine hours. Investigators are also likely to question a state minister whose number appeared in the call list of second accused Swapna Suresh which was leaked to the media. Meanwhile there are reports from Dubai that the third accused in the case Faisal Fareed was arrested and will be extradited soon. The NIA ad earlier requested Interpol issue a blue corner notice against him. The NIA has accused him of being a key operative in the smuggling racket. Investigators have also started a massive operation to trace the smuggled gold and seized 10 kg from two jewellers in Kozhikkode on Saturday, the official said.

In the last two days, investigators have raided two flats of Swapna Suresh and the business establishment of the third accused Sandip Nair in Thiruvananthapuram and seized many documents.  

Need to probe role of CM’s office: Cong
Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Sunday demanded that the role of the Office of Chief Minister in the gold sensational smuggling case needs to be probed and Pinarayi Vijayan should be questioned. “Time is ripe for investigating the role of CMO in the smuggling case and even questioning the chief minister himself,” Chennithala said.
Reports about the close involvement of top bureaucrats at CM’s Office with the key accused in gold smuggling “have exposed its inefficiency” and rampant corruption prevalent there, the LOP in the Assembly told reporters here.
Responding to the claim of Left front that Vijayan was an able administrator, Chennithala said if that was so his office would not have “deteriorated into a haven for smugglers.”
The gold, worth around Rs 15 crore, was received at the airport here as a diplomatic cargo addressed to an official in the consulate of the United Arab Emirates and the Customs have said they suspected a syndicate misused the diplomatic immunity to smuggle it. The case is being investigated by Customs and the National Investigation Agency, which has booked four people-- Swapna Suresh, Sarith, Sandeep Nair and Fasil Fareed, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention ) Act.

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