THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As much as 107 kg of gold is estimated to have been sneaked in inside diplomatic baggage through Kochi airport this year, with its end destination remaining unclear. This has prompted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the case, highly placed sources told TNIE.
Intelligence sources said the gold arrived in various consignments and it need to be ascertained whether the booty had ended up with extremist groups or those who are engaged in floating a parallel economy.
“The central agencies felt the case needs in-depth probe. It’s not just about 30kg of gold. There are a lot of other questions that need to be answered. Where did this much gold go? Who are the end users? Did it go to a single place or multiple destinations? The probe is expected to unravel all these mysteries,” said an intelligence source.
The sources added that the seized 30kg was the largest consignment sent via the diplomatic channel and the other consignments were of lesser quantities. The agencies have found out that since January, Swapna Suresh had travelled abroad up to five times and, on two occasions, she was accompanied by a senior bureaucrat.
DRI tracked movement of accused for six months
On one occasion, she came from abroad via Benguluru airport. Though the bureaucrat’s direct involvement in smuggling is not confirmed, the agencies doubt whether he was being used as a pawn for safe conduit of gold as hand baggage of the VIPs and the accompanying person are usually not screened.Meanwhile, it is learnt that the diplomatic baggage in which the gold was found at the Thiruvananthapuram airport was close to getting cleared, but the font on the sticker pasted on it forced the Customs officials to hold it back, sources said.
“The baggage had arrived on June 30 and Sarith tried to collect it through a clearing agent on July 1. If the font on the sticker was right, he would have taken the consignment out without much fuss,” said a source.
The sources said the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had been tracking the movement and activities of Swapna for the last six months. However, the DRI shied away from taking action fearing a diplomatic fallout. It was only later that a DRI special reporter conveyed the matter to a senior Customs official, who then took it upon himself the task to approach the Ministry of External Affairs through proper channels.