Gold smuggling: Swapna’s TN links under scanner

Chennai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is probing the bid to smuggle gold bars through diplomatic channel from UAE to Kerala is inquiring if Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the case, had links with two men in Coimbatore.  It is alleged that the two men had purchased smuggled gold from Swapna.

The NIA has claimed that Swapna and her accomplice Sandeep Nair had brought in 150 kilograms of gold over the past 10 months through illegal means.

The preliminary investigation carried out by multiple agencies showed that the gang had been smuggling gold since September 2019. They had smuggled around 150 kilograms of gold till now.

Some reports say the duo smuggled gold in 2019 twice- 18 kilograms and nine kilograms.

Earlier it was alleged that the gold was being smuggled for several jewellery business. But, now, the probe hints that the gold was smuggled for terrorist activities. The nature of terror activities is yet to be investigated, the NIA told the court.

For the purpose of smuggling the accused had forged the UAE Consulates’s emblem to get the consignments delivered.

The incident has affected the image of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Reports say that Kerala Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta and Additional Chief Secretary for Finance, Rajesh Kumar Singh are probing if the Chief Minister’s Office was compromised to assist Swapna in the smuggling case.

Following this, the airports in Kerala have stepped up vigilance to curb the smuggling of any kind of contraband following the incident. After the incident, the Air Intelligence Unit seized 1.455 kilograms of gold in Thiruvananthapuram, while 2.637 kilograms were seized in Kannur and 2.965 kilograms in Kozhikode.

It may be noted that in the very controversial smuggling case, nearly 30 kilograms of gold was caught at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. A key accused – Sarith was caught as he came to collect the luggage which arrived through diplomatic channels and addressed to a UAE diplomat. He named two others, Sandeep Nair and Swapna Suresh. They were nabbed from Bengaluru by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The trio are remanded in NIA custody for 14 days.

The case got murkier when Swapna’s connection to higher ups in the Kerala government came to light. She was a former employee of the UAE Consulate and was known to M Sivasankar, Principal Secretary of the IT Department. Sivasankar was removed from the post as well as from the post of Secretary to the Chief Minister’s office following the allegations.

 

NT Bureau