A special NIA court in Kochi granted gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair one week’s custody for further interrogation in the sensational case, a link of which has been traced to Dubai.
The FIR filed by the INA identified Faisal Fareed, a Dubai-based businessman as the crucial link who allegedly sent the cargo, camouflaged as diplomatic packet. Faisal is alleged to have forged the seal of the UAE government and the sticker indicating diplomatic bag.
The NIA has moved the court for a non bailable arrest warrant against Faisal, so that the help of Interpol or diplomatic channel can be used to secure his extradition. The UAE and India have signed an extradition treaty to facilitate exchange of criminals. The UAE, which is holding its own investigation, has been extending all cooperation to India in this regard.
The FIR claims that the proceeds of the 30 kg gold, valued at about Rs 15 crore, were meant to be used for terrorist activities, which makes the case different from normal gold smuggling incidents, generally meant to be supplied to jewellery makers.
The FIR also mentions that the accused have enjoyed patronage from highly-placed persons and states that only further interrogation will yield details of such people. Former IT Secretary M Sivasankar, who was also the principal secretary of the chief minister until he was removed from both positions last week, is likely to be questioned in connection with the case, for which a team of Customs and NIA officials is already in Thiruvananthapuram.
It is believed that the conspiracy to undertake the clandestine operation was hatched at a flat occupied by the top bureaucrat, which was also attended by Malappuram resident Rameez, a fourth person involved in the racket.
Customs has already arrested Rameez and his interrogation is progressing in Kochi. He is likely to be quizzed in the presence of the other accused. The man, who has a history of involvement in gold smuggling, is alleged to be the link responsible for the distribution of the contraband.
Meanwhile, the opposition United Democratic Front has decided to bring a non-confidence motion against the Pinarayi Vijayan government for its alleged involvement in providing protection to the accused. The CM’s principal secretary was apparently very close to the accused.
The UDF has also demanded the resignation of the Speaker of the Assembly, who according to the opposition lowered the prestige of the house by attending a private function organised by two of the accused.