After 15 months in jail, Swapna Suresh to be released after getting bail in Kerala gold smuggling case

Swapna has been in jail since July 11, 2020, when she was arrested from Bengaluru by the NIA
Kerala gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh (File Photo | PTI)
Kerala gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh (File Photo | PTI)

KOCHI: After more than 15 months in jail, Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the sensational Kerala gold smuggling case, has received bail and can be released from Attakulangaara women's prison in Thiruvananthapuram, where she is lodged.

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Swapna Suresh in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) case which probed the terrorism aspect in the gold smuggling through Thiruvananthapuram airport, and the court directed the petitioner to furnish a bond of Rs 25 lakh and two solvent sureties for the sum.

Sooraj T Elenjickal, the counsel for Swapna Suresh, told The New Indian Express, "Since the court had earlier quashed her COFEPOSA preventive detention order and granted bail in other cases in connection with the gold smuggling case, she will be released from jail very soon."

Swapna has been in jail since July 11, 2020, when she was arrested from Bengaluru by the NIA.

A Division Bench comprising Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice C Jayachandran issued the order. The court also granted bail to P Muhammed Shafi, AM Jalal, Rabins Hameed, Ramees KT, Sharafudeen KT, Sarith PS and Mohammed Ali. The bench also asked them to furnish a bond of Rs 25 lakh each.

The counsel for Swapna Suresh argued that the allegation in the charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would not attract any offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the charge sheet did not reveal evidence to connect her with the criminal activity of gold smuggling. The charge sheet does not disclose the involvement of transnational forces and financing terrorism as alleged in the investigation stage of the crime. The NIA special court had dismissed her bail plea. She pointed out that the NIA court went seriously wrong in rejecting her bail plea.

The NIA’s case is that the accused persons including Swapna Suresh with the requisite knowledge and intention to threaten and destabilise the economic security of the country had conspired, recruited persons formed a terrorist gang, raised funds and smuggled gold from the UAE in large quantities, using the diplomatic channel, damaging the country's friendly relations with the UAE and thereby committed terrorist activities punishable under sections 16, 17, 18 and 20 of the UAPA.

The NIA has already lodged the charge sheet against 20 accused persons including the petitioner and furnished a list of 267 witnesses.

Swapna Suresh submitted that the crime was registered for UAPA offence on the suspicion that the proceedings of smuggling might have been used for financing terrorism in the country. However, the charge sheet filed after the conclusion of the investigation had ruled out the possibility of financing terrorism and the involvement of transnational forces. The NIA court should have considered at the threshold whether any offences under the UAPA had been made out. In fact, no useful purpose would be served by detaining her further in jail.

The NIA submitted that if the charge sheet was perused, it would show that the accused were front liners and the charges against them were grave. Despite the finding that the smuggling of gold did not fall under the ambit of Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the High Court had earlier denied bail to Mohammed Shafi, the seventh accused in the case. Therefore, the same yardstick could be applied in this case as well.

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The New Indian Express