The Centre on Thursday handed over the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case — which has rocked the Kerala government and seen the exit of the principal secretary to the Chief Minister — to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“(Ministry of Home Affairs) permits NIA to investigate the Thiruvanathapuram Airport Gold smuggling case, as the organised smuggling operation may have serious implications for national security,” a statement from the MHA said.
Sources in the NIA said the agency would register a case only after examining the MHA order. The NIA only probes cases that deal with scheduled offences (those that are covered by special laws, and not the IPC). Customs violations or smuggling are not part of the NIA schedule. In fact, NIA has never investigated a gold smuggling case.
Kerala gold smuggling case explained: Diplomatic cargo, an absconding woman and a consulate under scanner
Sources said the agency will have to most likely invoke the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a law that deals with offences related to terrorism. “The smuggling of fake currency is a legitimate inclusion in UAPA as it destabilises a country’s economy. It can be argued that gold smuggling too does the same,” an official said.
The Customs department had on Sunday seized 30 kg gold from a diplomatic cargo at the Thiruvanathapuram airport. Diplomatic cargo enjoys immunity from inspection, but this consignment was confiscated based on specific inputs. Sarith Kumar, a former PRO of the consulate who had turned up to receive the consignment, was arrested. The case took a political turn when Kumar named Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the consulate who worked in the state IT department. On July 6, the state government removed senior IAS official M Sivasankar as principal secretary to CM over his role in hiring Swapna Suresh.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had on Wednesday written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking for an “effective and coordinated” investigation into the incident by central agencies.
Given the involvement of UAE consulate in the affair, the Ministry of External Affairs too reacted to the case on Thursday, with MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava saying, “The Ministry of External Affairs had kept the Embassy of the UAE informed regarding the matter. The UAE Mission has extended all cooperation to the Customs authorities in examining the said consignment. The matter is under further investigation,” he said.
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