Kerala gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh’s bail plea rejected by NIA court
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Monday rejected the bail application of the main accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, and ordered that provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act will remain in place.
Her counsel had opposed the UAPA saying no terror angle was involved and the case only dealt with economic offences but Assistant Solicitor General P Vijaykumar appearing for the NIA contended that major proceeds from smuggling were diverted to fund anti-national activities. After a week-long hearing, quite unusual in bail petitions, the court had posted it for a decision on Monday.
This is the first time UAPA has been imposed in the country in a smuggling case. “Earlier smuggling came under the Customs Act but after the amendment in UAPA, money laundering and serious economic offences that affect the country’s stability also come under it. True, this is first time UAPA has been applied in a smuggling case,” Supreme Court lawyer M R Abhilash said.
After hearing the versions of both sides in detail, the court ruled that considering the case diary and other details submitted by the probe agency her bail application will not stand. The NIA had produced the letter of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan which he wrote to the PM two days after the case surfaced on July 5 seeking a high-level central agency probe into the case. During the hearing, NIA also said the accused was influential and she had a good rapport with the CM’s office, bureaucracy and the state police.
The NIA said a portion of the proceeds from the gold smuggling was diverted to fund anti-national activities. It also said that after a preliminary investigation it found that one of the suspects, KT Ramees, who is in NIA custody, was in touch with some fundamentalist organizations. He also undertook many foreign trips including Tanzania in Africa and he was suspected to be a part of the international smuggling and drug racket, it said. But her lawyer insisted that the terror angle was brought in without any reason. At one point, the court also agreed she had no direct links with terror activities.
Her counsel also said she was a victim of intense political rivalry between the CPI (M)-led state government and the BJP-led Union government but the NIA citied the CM’s letter saying both governments wanted a thorough inquiry into the case and politics was dragged into the case intentionally. After her bail plea was dismissed, her counsel said he will move a higher court.
Meanwhile, people familiar with the probe said an NIA team had reached the United Arab Emirates and it will question Faisal Fareed, the third accused in the case, reportedly under the custody of the Dubai police. Earlier, Interpol had issued a red corner notice against him after the NIA’s request. It will also interrogate three others whose names cropped up during the questioning of KT Ramees.
There are also reports that the MEA sought permission of the UAE government to “interview and take a statement,” of the consular attaché who left the country after the seizure of 30 kg gold which had arrived as part of a diplomatic consignment. UAE is a friendly country where at least 25 lakh Indians are working, so the MEA is very cautious in its approach, a senior official said.
After the case came to light, the UAE embassy had issued a statement “that some former employees had misused Swapna Suresh had earlier worked with the consular office in Thiruvananthapuram. During investigation the NIA also found that both of them had allegedly forged the consular seal, stamp and other documents.