Saturday 31 October 2020

NIA: Kerala gold smuggling accused have links with Dawood’s gang

The sensational smuggling case came to light on 5 July after 30 kg of gold was seized from a consignment in the UAE consulate

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the Kerala gold smuggling case on 14 October told a special court in Kochi that some of the accused have links with the gang of Dawood Ibrahim and they visited Tanzania several times where the underworld don has an extensive network.

The accused had challenged the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the smuggling case, arguing that smuggling comes under economic offence and no terror angle was involved in the case. Countering that, the NIA said some of the accused in the case have links with anti-national forces.

Elaborating its point, the NIA said accused No 5 in the case KT Ramees and accused No 13 M Sharafuddin had visited Tanzania a number of times and met Dawood’s contact Feroze ‘Oasis’ and discussed ways to smuggle firearms into the country.

Earlier, Ramees was caught with smuggled revolvers at the Kozhikode airport. But later he got away, saying he was a member of the shooting association and remitted fine.

It said one of the arrested Muhamad Ali was an accused in chopping off the palm of a college teacher who prepared a controversial question paper but was later acquitted by a court in 2015. The NIA said he had close links with some of the fundamentalist outfits conspiring against the country. The court is expected to deliver its verdict on 16 October. This is the first time that the anti-terror law was invoked in a smuggling case.

Meanwhile, senior Indian Administrative Service officer M Sivasankar, who was Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s secretary, on 14 October moved the high court for anticipatory bail after the Enforcement Directorate summoned him again in connection with the case.

He was suspended in July after his alleged liaison with Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the case, came to light. In his bail plea he contended that he was questioned for more than 90 hours by different central agencies and they failed to detect any anomalies. He said he was fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation. To satisfy some vested interests, now agencies are under pressure to arrest him, he said in the plea which will be taken up on 15 October.

There are reports the ED may file a case against him for money laundering. During investigation, it found that he had made several foreign trips and in some of them official permission was not sought. He was also aware of the questionable integrity of Swapna Suresh and he went out of way to help her, the ED said.

The sensational smuggling case came to light on 5 July after 30 kg of gold was seized from a consignment in the UAE consulate. P Sarith Kumar, a former employee of the consulate who came to receive it, was arrested by the customs and two other suspects, Suresh and her accomplice Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru five days later.

Sivasankar was suspended shortly after that. Now a multi-agency team is probing the case and 30 people have been arrested. Besides the NIA, ED, DRI, Customs and Income Tax are also part of the investigation. The ED had questioned Kerala Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel in connection with alleged import of holy books and dry dates.

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