Kerala gold smuggling case: HC grants bail to key accused Swapna Suresh
The Kerala high court on Tuesday granted bail to prime accused in the sensational gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh. The bail was granted in a case filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Suresh, who has been behind the bars since June 2020, was granted relief on a bail bond of ₹25 lakh and two solvent sureties.
The high court order would now pave the way for her release from the jail. She had earlier secured bail in cases filed by the customs department and Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The court also granted bail to seven other accused -- Sarith PS, Mohammed Shafi P, Jalal AM, Rabins Hameed, Ramees KT, Sharafudeen KT and Mohammad Ali -- in the case. However, three of the accused, Rabins Hameed, Mohammad Shafi P and Ramees KT, will remain in prison till their Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act period ends.
Five central agencies are probing the high-profile smuggling case which had surfaced after the seizure of 30 kg gold that had reached the UAE consulate in the state capital of Thiruvanthapuram camouflaged as diplomatic consignment.
On Monday, the high court’s division bench, comprising Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice C Jayachandran, had reserved its judgment in the appeals filed by Suresh and another accused Sarith PS against the verdict of the special NIA court that had dismissed their bail applications.
During the hearing, the accused had said the NIA had failed to make a case for prosecuting the petitioners under the UAPA. “The offence alleged against them was gold smuggling while UAPA predominantly dealt with the offence of counterfeiting high-quality currency. The prosecution case even if proved, only amounts to an offence of smuggling of gold, which will come under the Customs Act and not UAPA. It is only a Customs offence, at the worst. And for the Customs offence, the petitioners have already been granted bail," Suresh’s lawyer had said.
"There is no legal evidence of an expert witness that the alleged activity will lead to the destruction of economic stability under Section 15 of UAPA. The final report filed by the NIA at the Special Court does not include any evidence whatsoever that such proceeds have been utilised to finance terrorism as alleged," the lawyer added.
"While some of the accused in the matter were released on bail already, the rest were denied bail on the sole ground that a deeper probe was necessary for the facts narrated in the FIR, regarding funding terrorism and involvement of transnational forces. From the final report, it becomes clear that no such links with terrorism or transnational links could be established by the investigating agencies," the petition said.
(With inputs from bureau) and agencies