Kerala gold smuggling: Accused sneaked in 300 kg in last one year

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Updated: Jul 19, 2020 11:32 PM

The smuggled gold was sold in Kerala and outside the state through a well established channel in which Ramees, another accused arrested in the case, is a key member. 

The arrested persons started smuggling gold using diplomatic channels in July last year

Around 300 kg of gold has been sneaked into the country through diplomatic channels in the past one year by the accused held in the Kerala gold smuggling case, including its alleged woman kingpin, using their access to a foreign consulate, official sources said on Sunday. The arrested persons, including the alleged kingpin in the racket Swapna Suresh, started smuggling gold using diplomatic channels in July last year, they said. “Initially, they sent a consignment to Thiruvananthapuram as a test. It was successful. This gave them some kind of confidence and at least 13 consignments hidden with gold had reached the country till they were caught (recently),” the sources privy to the investigation said.

They said the gang is estimated to have smuggled roughly around 300 kg of gold through Thiruvananthapuram airport since July last year. In the sensational case that has rocked Kerala, Central agencies have so far arrested 15 people. While Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate arrested 13 people, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two persons in connection with the seizure of gold worth nearly Rs 15 crore from the “diplomatic baggage” at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Suresh, and other key accused Sarith and Sandeep Nair are suspected to have used their “high-level contacts” for successfully carrying out the illegal trade, the sources added.

The smuggled gold was sold in Kerala and outside the state through a well established channel in which Ramees,
another accused arrested in the case, is a key member. Besides the 15 arrested people, some 20 others, allegedly
part of the network, have been questioned by the central agencies so far. The money collected from the smuggled gold was sent back to abroad via hawala route. “We are looking to apprehend all those who have been involved in this illegal business,” the source said.

Meanwhile, media reports in Kerala said Faisal Fareed, a key operative in the case registered by the NIA, has been
detained by the UAE police authorities. The Gulf-based businessman, hailing from Thrissur district, is likely to be extradited to India soon, the reports claimed.

Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, and Sandeep were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru last Saturday. Sarith, who was arrested by the Customs was also a former employee of the consulate. In its political fallout, opposition Congress and the BJP had targeted the Left government in Kerala, alleging the Chief Minister’s office had links with the seizure of around 30 kg of gold on July 5.

BJP state chief K Surendran had charged the CMO with trying to ‘interfere’ in the matter. Speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Sunday said the role of the CM’s office in the gold smuggling case needs to be probed and Pinarayi Vijayan should be questioned. When asked whether the case has affected the image of the state government, Vijayan had said on Saturday that investigation was going on and the state government will not protect anyone including any official involved in the matter.

“The people of the state can see what’s happening in the case. The opposition parties are trying to create a cloud of
doubt over the state government. But such lies will not last long. Even some media houses have also joined in the campaign. Let the truth come out,” he had said.

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