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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Kerala gold-smuggling case: NIA charges 20, Pinarayi’s ex-principal secy not named

Notably, while the name of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar had cropped up in the case, and he had even been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), he has not been named in the chargesheet.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: January 6, 2021 3:12:07 am
Kerala gold-smuggling case: NIA files chargesheet against 20 accusedPolice personnel produce Sarith, accused in gold smuggling case, at a special court in Kochi, Thursday, July 9, 2020. (PTI File Photo)

Key accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh and her associates had smuggled in over 167 kg gold through diplomatic cargo between November 2019 and June 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has told a special court in Ernakulam.

The agency on Tuesday filed a chargesheet in the case against 20 accused. Notably, while the name of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar had cropped up in the case, and he had even been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), he has not been named in the chargesheet.

Sivasankar was removed from his post in the wake of the controversy. “Our investigation is being conducted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),” an NIA official said. “We have as yet not found enough evidence to either arrest or chargesheet Sivasankar in the case…”

The NIA had questioned Sivasankar in connection with the case in September last year. A month later, the ED arrested him for alleged money laundering associated with the case. It also started probing several flagship state government schemes that had been approved when Sivasankar was part of the CMO.

In its chargesheet, the NIA has claimed that the accused had plans to use diplomatic cargo for smuggling from other countries as well. The chargesheet states: “The NIA investigation hitherto has revealed that the accused had knowingly conspired since June 2019, raised funds and smuggled from UAE, between November 2019 and June 2020, around 167 kg of gold, through the import cargo addressed to diplomats at the Consulate General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram. Signif-icantly the main accused had also planned to smuggle more gold from countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.”

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg gold, valued at Rs 14.82 crore, on July 5 last year at air cargo of Trivandrum International Airport by Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin, from a diplomatic baggage that arrived from the UAE.

The agency initially arrested Sarith P S, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair even as it made trips to the UAE to investigate the case. Till date, the agency has arrested 21 accused. Swapna was alleged to be associated with Sivasankar, who reportedly had got her a job with the government.

The chargesheet names Sarith PS and Swapna Prabha Suresh from Thiruvananthapuram; Ramees K T, Mohammed Shafi P, Saidalavi E, Abdu P T, Sharafuddeen KT, Mohammed Shafeeq A, Hamzath Abdulsalam, Hamjad Ali K, Abdul Hameed and Aboobacker P (all residents of Malappuram); Samju TM, Jifsal CV, Muhammed Abdu Shameem KV, and Shamshudeen (Kozhikode); and Jalal AM, Rabins Hameed, Muhammedali Ebrahim and Muhammedali.

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