KOCHI: Almost four months after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) launched a probe into the smuggling of gold through the diplomatic channel, the agency has not yet determined that the gold was brought in for financing terrorism activities. When the bail petitions of eight accused persons came up for consideration on Tuesday, the NIA Court in Kochi again sought a clarification from the agency on whether it had evidence that the gold was smuggled for terrorism activities as charged in the FIR.
On Monday, the court, after hearing the counsel of eight accused persons including prime accused Muhammad Shafi, had decided to hear NIA on Tuesday. However, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) P Vijayakumar who appeared for NIA via Google Meet asked for more time as an advocate in his office turned Covid positive.
He said he could not go through the Case Dairy to prepare arguments and sought time till Friday. However, NIA Court judge P Krishnakumar said he will hear the case at 3pm on Wednesday as the bail petitions were filed around a month back. The NIA submitted the Case Dairy to the court and it was returned after the judge went through the findings made by the agency till now.
The court asked the ASG to clarify on Wednesday whether the agency maintains the charges invoking Sections 16 (punishment for terrorist activities), 17 (funding terrorist activities), and 18 (conspiracy for terrorist activities) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). “As asked to the prosecutor on Monday, it has to be clarified whether NIA sticks to its charges against the accused as stated in the FIR. Has NIA found any new case against them by now?” the court asked the ASG.
The NIA, in the counter-affidavit filed opposing the bail plea, did not point out whether the smuggled gold was intended to support terrorist activities in the country. Instead, it maintained that gold smuggling will destabilise the economic security of the nation which is also a terrorist activity under Section 15 of UAPA.
The defence counsel pointed out on Monday that the NIA did not specify that proceeds of the smuggled gold were to be used for financing terrorism in India as stated in the FIR registered on July 10. The NIA countered this argument claiming that the accused persons intentionally wanted to destabilise economic security of the nation which itself is an act of terrorism under Section 15 of UAPA.
“It is revealed during the investigation that the accused persons had knowledge that their act would threaten the security including economy security and affect the monetary stability of India. They had, in fact, discussed about the prospect of smuggling in large quantities of gold despite this. This clearly shows their intention and motive to destabilise the country,” the counter-affidavit stated.
On the other hand, the counsel of a key accused, who demanded anonymity as the case is in a crucial stage, said that all gold smuggling cases affect the economic stability of the nation. “After this case was detected in July, around 50kg of gold was seized by the Customs from various airports in Kerala alone. Has NIA registered an FIR in any of those smuggling incidents?” he said.