New Delhi, July 18: The sudden exit of Rashed Alshemeili, the attache from India to UAE and then the suicide attempt by the gunman of the UAE Consulate has made the Kerala Gold Smuggling case a murky affair.
The case has all the possible ingredients, which of course includes smuggling, high level dirty play, politics, the mafia, a terror angle and hawala. The gunman, Jayaghosh had gone missing two days back. He had told his family that he was under threat. Later he was found with his wrist slit. He is now in a stable condition and would be questioned soon by the National Investigation Agency.
The sudden exits of Rashed Alshemeili has also set the tongues wagging. He is a key witness in the case, but he made a sudden exit to his country. He enjoys immunity under the Vienna Convention. However on Sunday, he reached Delhi and took a flight to UAE.
The National Investigation Agency which was permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs to probe the case is looking into a wide range of issues. A hawala network and the possible terror funding are on the radar of the NIA. The Enforcement Directorate too may join the probe soon, if any angle relating to money laundering crops up. Sources tell OneIndia that there is a high possibility of money laundering in this case and the ED is keeping a close watch on the developments.
The Mallapuram duo:
NIA officials are scrutinising the calls that were made between Kerala Minister, K T Jaleel and accused, Swapna Suresh. There were nine calls between June 1 and June 26. The calls lasted 1 to 2 minutes and the minister in his defence said that they were strictly professional in nature.
The focus would now shift to the investigation of Abdul Hameed and Aboobacker Pazedath from Mallapuram, who were taken into custody by the Customs on Friday, following day long raids.
Both were summoned by the Custom officials following a statement given by Said Alavi, also an accused in this case. Their statements were recorded, following which they were arrested.
Both Hameed an Pazedath had in the past smuggled foreign goods and gold. However they stopped smuggling after they were caught by the Customs. However the duo then invested Rs 1 crore in gold smuggling and were expected to make a profit after the gold reached the end buyers.
The Customs have also conducted raids at three jewellery stores in Kozhikode and Mallapuram districts. The Customs was ascertaining whether the gold smuggled had reached these shops. The officials also seized the gold from the shop for want of documents.
Officials also conducted raids at the residence of Faisal Fareed in Thrissur. He is suspected to have sent the baggage containing the gold from Dubai. The Customs also recovered a laptop belonging to Sandeep Nair, an accused in the case. It is being ascertained whether this was the same laptop used to forge documents.
Meanwhile the National Investigation has under its scanner several police officials in Kerala. The NIA suspects that these officials could have played a vital part in aiding the racket.
The NIA would also be exchanging information with the crime branch to dig out more details into the case. The crime branch had probed the case against Swapna Suresh. She is being probed in connection with the false rape accusation against an Air India official.
The Customs on the other hand is probing Rameez K T who is suspected to be a key link in this case. He has a criminal background and has been booked earlier for poaching and gold smuggling.
This case has sparked an outrage in Kerala. The opposition is demanding that Kerala CM, Pinarayi Vijayan should resign. The CM's former principal secretary M Sivasankar is alleged to have close links with some of the accused.
Sivasankar was summoned by the Customs after call records between him and prime accused Sarith surfaced in the media. The CPI (M) has however said that the case is being used by the BJP and Congress to malign the image of the government.
The case in a nutshell:
The case has been registered under sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, against 04 accused persons including Swapna Prabha Suresh
The case relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth Rs.14.82 crores at Trivandrum International Airport, the NIA said.
The aforesaid consignment was found camouflaged in diplomatic baggage from UAE that is exempted from inspection as per the Vienna Convention. The said consignment was to be received by Sarith P S who had worked in the UAE Consulate earlier as Public Relations Officer. Initial investigation by Customs Department has revealed that Sarith had received multiple such consignments earlier as well.
As the case pertains to smuggling of 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 section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Further, as the case has national and international linkages and as the initial enquiries have revealed that the proceeds of smuggled gold could be used for financing of terrorism in India, NIA had taken up the investigation of the case.