National Investigation Agency files case against 4 in Kerala gold smuggling scandal
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a First Information Report against four accused in the case of gold smuggling via diplomatic channels. The FIRs were filed under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
It is the first time the premier agency, which handles national security, terror and security-based cases, is investigating a gold smuggling case.
In the FIR, Sarith Kumar, who is in the custody of the customs, is first accused; Swapna Suresh is second; elusive UAE-based smuggling kingpin Fazil Pareed is third; and Suresh’s friend Sandeep Nair is the fourth accused.
With NIA invoking the UAPA, Suresh and Sandeep are likely to surrender in a couple of days and the agency may start extradition proceedings to get Pareed.
The NIA said the accused were part of a well-entrenched smuggling racket and the first accused and Suresh were actively involved in arranging the diplomatic papers for the delivery of the consignment.
It also said a good portion of money generated through smuggling was used to fund some anti-national activities.
The Ministry of External Affairs has also made a request to the UAE embassy in Delhi for a meeting with some employees at the consular office in Thiruvananthapuram to get more details.
On Sunday, the Customs Department had seized 30 kg of gold from an air cargo consignment from the United Arab Emirates to the country’s consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Suresh, who was working as the operational manager of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited under the state IT Ministry, had gone underground after the seizure. Later, the CM had transferred his principal secretary M Sivasankar, who was reported to be close to Suresh.
The Union Home Ministry had handed over the probe to the NIA on Thursday.
The issue took on political colour after the Opposition Congress and BJP claimed that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan knew about his principal secretary Sivasankar’s alleged link with the second accused Suresh.
The Maharashtra -based varsity, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, from where Suresh reportedly obtained her BCom degree made it clear that the varsity did not have such a course. Later, the controller of the examination Dr Vivek S Sathe sent a mail to a news channel saying it was a fake certificate. She was given a job at Air India-SATS and the Kerala IT department based on this degree. Two days back, her estranged brother also claimed she did not even clear her class 10 examination.
Meanwhile protests by opposition parties seeking the resignation of the chief minister Pinarayi turned violent at several places in the state.
In Kozhikode, many people were injured after police resorted to baton charge on agitating Youth League workers. In Kochi too, Yuva Morcha protests turned violent. In Kannur, police lobbed teargas shells to control Youth Congress workers who held a rally outside Vijayan’s ancestral house.
“It is a big racket. Reports have emerged that they smuggled many such consignments. The CM can’t keep silent saying he was not aware of the appointment of Swapna Suresh. He has to take moral responsibility and resign,” said state opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
State health minister KK Shaialaja said at several places protesters ignored social distancing and they were not wearing masks also.
“We are in the midst of the worst pandemic. Hope protesters realise this,” she said.