Court asks NIA to present proof to link terrorism and gold smuggling

Seeks case diary; Swapna’s counsel says gold smuggling doesn’t come under UAPA and agency showed haste in making her accused due to  political reasons

Published: 30th July 2020 03:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2020 03:18 AM   |  A+A-

Former IT secretary M Sivashankar arrives at NIA office in Kochi as part of interrogation in the case related to smuggling of gold using diplomatic channel

Former IT secretary M Sivashankar arrives at NIA office in Kochi as part of interrogation in the case related to smuggling of gold using diplomatic channel. (Photo| A Sanesh, EPS)

By Express News Service

KOCHI: As the terrorism link in the recent incident of gold smuggling via the diplomatic channel is still being debated, the NIA Court here on Wednesday asked the national agency to present details of incriminating materials that point to this. The court asked this when the bail application of Swapna Suresh was considered.Judge P Krishnakumar asked the NIA to submit the case diary and list out details of incriminating materials in it that can link the terrorism angle in the case. Prosecutor of NIA Arjun Ambalapatta said after going through the case diary, the court will be convinced about the terrorist link behind the gold smuggling. He said proceeds of the gold smuggled in earlier were directed towards terrorism activities.

Arjun also said Swapna was used by the smuggling gang under K T Rameez to send gold through the diplomatic baggage. “If there was no Swapna, the gang could not have sent the gold through the diplomatic channel. We have collected incriminating evidence to establish that the accused persons intended to destabilise the nation’s monetary security by planning to smuggle the maximum quantities of gold during the lockdown period,” he said.

Swapna’s counsel Geo Paul said there was an ugly haste from the part of NIA to make her an accused which, he suspects, was due to political reasons. “The NIA registered the FIR on July 10, five days after the Customs opened the diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram airport. When the NIA registered the FIR, Swapna was not even an accused in the Customs case. There was an ugly haste due to political reasons in making Swapna an accused in the NIA case,” he said.

He said the remand report filed by the NIA on expiry of Swapna’s custody did not mention about any terrorist activities in which she was accused of being involved. The remand report instead claims that the money from the gold smuggling was deposited in lockers and bank accounts.Geo Paul also contested the NIA decision to invoke the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) sections against the accused. According to him, UAPA Section 15 explains that smuggling of high-quality counterfeit comes under the terrorist act not gold smuggling. The Customs Act never comes under the schedule of the NIA Act which explains offences that can be probed by the agency.

He also read out the statement of former Union finance minister P Chidambaram in Parliament regarding the amendment to Section 15 of UAPA on December 12, 2011 which was to prevent damage to the nation’s monetary stability through counterfeiting and money laundering. He claimed such an amendment was brought in as part of India becoming a member of the Financial Action Task Force to counter terrorism funding.

He also cited the experience of scientist Nambi Narayanan who faced investigation of five agencies after false espionage charges were raised against him. The NIA told the court that the assistant solicitor-general will be arguing the case for the agency. The court posted the petition for further hearing on August 4.

Customs clearance agent to be quizzed again
Customs sleuths have decided to interrogate clearance agent Hari Raj, who operates from Thiruvananthapuram airport, again. The decision was taken after interrogating Swapna Suresh, a prime accused in the case. A Customs officer said that a notice will be served on Hari who was quizzed early this month. Meanwhile, Swapna and Sandeep are being interrogated by Customs in its custody. Swapna told Customs officials that she indulged in smuggling activities for monetary gains as she was facing some financial hardship. However, Customs has not taken her entire version at facevalue.

Police get nod to record arrest  of Swapna in fake certificate case

Kochi: The Cantonment police that booked Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh for alleged forgery of document to obtain a job at Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITL), got permission from the NIA court in Kochi to record her arrest. The police will record her arrest after the expiry of her Customs custody period. A police team filed a petition in the NIA court on Tuesday. However, before proceeding with the arrest, she was sent to Customs custody till August 1. The police had registered the case against Swapna based on a complaint from KSITL. She allegedly used a fake bachelor’s degree certificate of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University and managed to get the post of a junior consultant at KSITL. 


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