The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a money laundering complaint in connection with the Kerala diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, officials said on Wednesday (July 22).
The ED is the fourth central agency to condict an enquiry of the accused involved in the case after the Customs, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and the Income Tax Department.
However, a money laundering probe will be different from investigations conducted by other agencies. This investigation will allow the ED to attach properties of accused people and look into other shell companies involved in gold smuggling.
They said the agency has registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent of a police FIR, after studying the NIA complaint filed in the case recently.
The ED case has been booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the agency will record the statement of the accused, they said.
The central agency will investigate if proceeds of crime were generated by the accused by laundering of funds that were earned through the alleged gold smuggling racket.
The ED also has powers to attach the immovable and movable properties of the accused under the PMLA.
The case emerged on July 5 when gold, weighing over 30 kg, was seized by the Customs department from the “diplomatic baggage” that had landed by air cargo at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport from the Gulf. The seized gold is stated to be worth nearly Rs 15 crore.
The NIA had earlier arrested the prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh and her associate Sandeep Nair, from Bengaluru on July 11. The NIA had told a special court in Kochi on Tuesday that Suresh, Nair and others conspired to damage the country’s monetary stability by smuggling a large quantity of gold from abroad.
In a report submitted to the court, the NIA also said it is suspected that the accused had used the proceeds of smuggling for financing terrorism through various means.
The accused deliberately used the diplomatic baggage of UAE as a cover to transact illegal business and it may have serious repercussions in India’s diplomatic relations with the UAE government and it is prejudicial to the monetary and economic security of India as well, the NIA said.
The NIA has interrogated Suresh and Nair who are in its custody till July 24. It has booked Suresh, Sarith P S, Nair, and Fasil Fareed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Suresh was working in the Information Technology department and her contractual service terminated after her name cropped up in the gold smuggling case.
IAS officer M Sivasakar was removed as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state IT Secretary over his alleged links with Suresh and other accused in the case.
She is also stated to be a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Sarith P S, also a former employee of the UAE consulate in Kerala, was arrested by the Customs department after the gold was seized.
Dubai-based businessman Fareed is still at large. The NIA last week approached Interpol seeking a ‘blue notice’ against Fareed after finding that Fareed had forged the documents – seal and emblem – of the UAE embassy to ensure diplomatic protection for the baggage.
A ‘blue notice’ by Interpol is generally issued to collect more information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
The gold was allegedly to be used for terror activities.
(With inputs from agencies)