KOCHI: The Customs probe into the gold smuggling through the diplomatic channel has identified jewellers in Kozhikode and Malappuram who had bought around 150kg of the yellow metal brought illegally from the UAE. While the NIA claims that the smuggled gold was directed primarily to fund terrorist activities, the Customs probe shows jewellers in North Kerala were the end buyers. The Customs on Wednesday raided several jewellery shops in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts.
“We have clear evidence for the involvement of at least four jewellers who had bought the gold. We carried searches in the shops. The people running them will be arrested. Whether these jewellers and agents have any links with any banned organisations will be probed by NIA. We are close to the end buyers of the gold smuggled through the Thiruvananthapuram airport in baggages addressed to a diplomat in the UAE Consulate,” a source said.
According to Customs officials, it was KT Rameez of Malappuram and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram who had cornered the major share of the profit. The entire operations were planned by the duo. Sandeep, who came to know of the close connection of Swapna Suresh and Sarith P S with UAE diplomats, had recruited them for the illegal activity. “Both of them resigned from the UAE Consulate on the directions of Sandeep to carry out smuggling. The duo was close to diplomats and confident of using the latter’s diplomatic immunity for smuggling,” an official said.
The smuggling racket operated in two groups, Rameez being the central point. Rameez, Sandeep, Swapna and Sarith knew each other. Sandeep, Swapna and Sarith did not know the buyers and financiers like Muvattupuzha native Jalaal A M, Malappuram natives Mohammed Shafi and Hamjad Ali. “Jalaal arranged the fund from financiers and handed it to Rameez. Rameez would send the money to the network in the UAE through hawala channels. The gold was procured and handed over to Faisal Fareed who would send it via the diplomatic baggage. Swapna’s role was to ensure the gold passed through the airport safely and Sarith would pick it up from the airport and hand it to Sandeep. The gold then went to Jalaal via Rameez. It was Jalaal who supplied the gold to jewellers. The profit was distributed among financiers and people like Sarith and Swapna who facilitated the smuggling,” the official said.
The Customs took a Malappuram native, suspected to be a financier, into custody. On Wednesday, it produced Jalaal, 38, of Anikkad, Muvattupuzha, Shafi, 37, of Ikkarappady, Malappuram, and Hamjad, 51, of Kondotty, Malappuram, in the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offence) Court here which remanded them in judicial custody. The trio’s arrest was recorded late in the night on Tuesday.
The Customs also produced first accused Sarith in court on completion of his custody period. The agency filed a petition for the custody of Swapna and Sandeep on completion of their NIA custody on July 21.
Sandeep’s bag checked
The NIA on Wednesday opened the bag, seized from Sandeep Nair, in front of NIA Court judge P Krishnakumar. The bag was seized when Sandeep was apprehended from Bengaluru on Saturday. Sources said several documents and diaries were recovered from the bag, which was examined from 4pm to 7pm. Other procedures continued till 9pm. The NIA had on Monday sought permission to open the bag in the court’s presence, claiming it contained documents that could shed light on the identities of other members of the smuggling network. The NIA on Wednesday also recorded the arrest of Sarith P S and will file a plea seeking his custody on Thursday.