KOCHI: Probing the money laundering aspect behind the smuggling of gold using the diplomatic channel in Thiruvananthapuram, the Enforcement Directorate has approached the Union finance ministry to designate a court in Kochi as a new Special Court for cases coming under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A notification to that effect is expected this month, sources said.
Currently, such cases are handled by the Principal District Sessions Court in Kochi and Kozhikode, the designated Special Courts for the purpose in Kerala. “As the gold smuggling case is of a serious nature affecting national security, we have requested for a third Special Court for PMLA cases in Kochi where the trial will be held. We have asked the finance ministry to designate CBI/NIA court in Kochi as the PMLA Special Court.
The case registered by NIA on the terrorism aspect of the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling is heard at the NIA court. It will be convenient if the same court is designated as a PMLA Special court. All PMLA cases registered based on other CBI or NIA cases will be handled by the new court,” an ED official said.
ED Special Prosecutor T A Unnikrishnan also made a submission before the NIA court regarding the agency’s move for a third PMLA Special Court. The submission was made as part of a petition filed by ED to transfer the NIA case related to the gold smuggling incident to a Special court for PMLA cases.
“We have approached the finance ministry to designate the NIA court as the third PMLA Special Court in Kerala. We have learnt that the finance ministry has approved the request and a notification is expected within two weeks,” Unnikrishnan submitted. The court decided to hear the petition again after two weeks.
However, the NIA has objected to the ED petition seeking transfer of its case to a PMLA Special Court. According to NIA, the gold smuggling case is registered invoking various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The trial in the NIA case can be held only at an NIA court, as per the NIA Act.
Conducting the trial of cases probed by NIA and ED in the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling incident at the same court will bring out the differences in the findings of the two central agencies. While ED claims that former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar is the kingpin behind the gold smuggling, NIA is yet to make him an accused in the case. While NIA comes under the home ministry, ED is monitored by the finance ministry.