Sunday, July 19, 2020

Gold smuggling case: Accused sneaked in 300 kg in last one year

Kochi: 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.
19/07/20 PTI/Outlook
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