Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: NIA Makes Rapid Headway, Arrests Six More In Last Three Days

by M R Subramani - Aug 3, 2020 02:44 PM +05:30 IST
Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: NIA Makes Rapid Headway, Arrests Six More In Last Three Days
  • One of the arrested is a radical Islamic Popular Front of India activist, who was linked to the Professor T J Joseph hand-chopping case.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has made rapid headway in the Kerala gold smuggling case, arresting 10 people so far, six of them in the last three days, and establishing terrorist links.

One of the arrested in the case is a person associated with the radical Islamist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI).

During the last three days, including the weekend, the agency has arrested six people, including the PFI activist, who was the 24th accused in the case of chopping the wrist of Professor T J Joseph at Thodupuzha in Idukki district.

The PFI activist was acquitted in the wrist chopping case.

The NIA has now widened its investigation to neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The Kerala gold smuggling case came to light after Customs officials seized 30 kg of gold valued at Rs 14.5 crore from diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram on 5 July.

Two of the key suspects, who had earlier worked with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, have used the diplomatic channel to smuggle in gold into the country from the Gulf countries.

A phone call was reported to have been made from the Kerala Chief Minister’s office (CMO) to let go of Swapna Suresh, one of the accused.

The call was made by M Sivasankar, Principal Secretary in the CMO, leading to his suspension.

As the smuggling operations seemed to have risked the country’s security and defence, the Centre asked the NIA to take over the investigations in the case.

Among the six arrested by the NIA are three people from Tamil Nadu, who are reported to be agents who helped in the sale of smuggled gold.

Tamil daily Dinamalar reported that some important persons in Tamil Nadu had links with Swapna Suresh, one of the main accused in the case.

The NIA team, which came to Chennai during the weekend, investigated the huge seizure of gold in January last year in which some key people were reportedly involved.

The team probed Customs, Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and airport authorities as well.

The NIA team also probed into the seizure of 20 kg gold from a person in Choolaimedu locality of Chennai city.

The gold came to the metropolis from Dubai and a part of it had come via boat from Sri Lanka last year.

The investigation team also probed the smuggling of 20 kg gold from Hong Kong last year and the arrest of two foreigners in this connection.

Other incidents scrutinised by the NIA were the smuggling of 24 kg of gold and the arrest of two South Korean women, besides the seizure of 10 kg gold last year.

The NIA investigated the people who were arrested in this connection and their links.

During its probe, the team found out that in July last year, huge consignments of gold had been smuggled into the country through the Trichy airport.

The NIA suspects that the gold smuggling team could have a hand in at least some, if not all the cases.

Rameez Smuggles 13 Guns Into Kochi From Dubai

As the NIA tightens the noose around the gold smuggling gang, it has found that another key accused, K T Rameez, who is suspected to be the kingpin of the racket, had smuggled in 13 guns during a single trip from Dubai to Kochi in November 2019.

Customs officials seized a bag that contained several parts of the guns after a scan revealed that it contained firearms.

After seizing them, the Customs Department had sent it to the ballistic wing of the police lab for forensic examination.

All the parts were joined and Customs officials found 13 guns.

However, they were unable to proceed further in the case as the lab did not submit the forensic report.

The NIA also conducted search operations in Malappuram, Muvattupuzha, Perinthalmanna and three other places during the weekend.

It included the residences of the suspects and those arrested.

It recovered two hard disks, eight mobile phones and six SIM cards, a digital video recorder and five DVDs, as well as bank passbooks, travel and identity documents and debit cards.

The Kerala gold smuggling case has put the Left Democratic Front government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the backfoot.

Opposition parties, led by the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, are demanding Vijayan's resignation since the NIA has conducted search operations in the State Secretariat and taken away video footages from CCTVs there.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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