NIA takes up probe in Kerala gold smuggling case, lodges FIR

The Centre on Thursday allowed the NIA to investigate the case in view of the "serious implications for national security"

Gold
Four people have been named in the case which relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth ₹14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport on July 5 by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi. Representational image: iStock

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday (July 10) registered a case against four people, including a key woman suspect, for their alleged involvement in smuggling 30 kg gold worth ₹14.82 crore in Kerala, an official said.

The Centre on Thursday (July 9) allowed the NIA to investigate the case in view of the “serious implications for national security”.

The central agency registered the FIR under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, an NIA spokesperson said.

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Sarith, Swapna Prabha Suresh, and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram and Fazil Fareed of Ernakulum have been named in the case which relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth ₹14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport on July 5 by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi, he said.

The consignment was found camouflaged in diplomatic baggage from the UAE that is exempted from inspection as per the Vienna Convention, the official said.

The consignment was to be received by Sarith, who had worked in the UAE consulate earlier as a public relations officer, the NIA spokesperson said.

Initial investigation by the Customs department has revealed that Sarith had received multiple such consignments earlier as well, the official said.

As the case pertains to smuggling of a large quantity of gold into India from offshore locations, threatening the economic stability and national security of the country, it amounts to a terrorist act as stated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, he said.

Since the case has national and international linkages, and as the initial inquiries have revealed that the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India, the NIA has taken up the investigation, the official added.

The Customs department has said that it suspected a smuggling syndicate misused the name of a person in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate who enjoys diplomatic immunity.

On Thursday, India said it was keeping the embassy of the UAE informed about the case and that the mission was extending all cooperation to the Customs authorities examining it.

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