Within 24 hours of taking over the probe into the Kerala gold smuggling racket, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained accused Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair on Saturday. Both of them were arrested in Bengaluru. They will be brought to Cochin on Sunday.
Swapna and her family, along with Sandeep Nair, had apparently escaped to Bengaluru, using the opportunity provided by the triple lockdown that was declared in the state capital, a day after the 30kg contraband haul.
Opposition leaders, including Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the lockdown was declared to facilitate her movement. This is bound to cause embarrassment to the state government, which the opposition has been accusing of protecting the alleged offenders.
The announcement of their arrest came within minutes of reports appearing to the effect that the NIA has sought the help of Kerala Police to track down Swapna and her alleged accomplice.
Swapna had released an audio recording, claiming that she was innocent and that she had intervened with the Customs at the behest of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
It seems that the telephone calls made by the accused had given them away as these provided valuable clues to the investigators.
In another ominous development for the state government, the NIA sleuths had searched the flat where Sivasankaran, the former principal secretary of Chief Minister, used to stay near his office in the Secretariat.
The NIA investigators have been interrogating Sarith, the ex-colleague of Swapna Suresh in the UAE consulate, who is in their custody already. The man reportedly provided details of his connection with Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair and the modus operandi.
The NIA team also searched the house of Sandeep Nair on Saturday and reportedly collected crucial evidence of gold smuggling, including the bag used to bring the gold. The clandestine operation has been going on for the last six months, but the Covid outbreak provided them a golden opportunity to scale up the operation.