KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday deferred considering the anticipatory bail plea of Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the Thiruvananthapuram airport gold smuggling case. The High Court will now hear the plea on Tuesday.
The Union government on Thursday handed over the gold smuggling case to the National Investigation Agency. Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, is allegedly to be a member of the gold smuggling racket.
“Since the case has been taken over by the NIA, the HC cannot consider the bail plea and the matter has to be taken up by NIA special court,” said Ravi Prakash, Centre’s counsel, reported regional media. It was on Thursday that Swapna, who is still absconding, submitted the bail plea online.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has handed over the case to the NIA “considering the chances for its serious ramifications on national security”.
The NIA informed the Kerala High Court that a case has been registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and Sarith, who are members of the gold smuggling racket. Sarith has already been taken into custody by the Customs. The investigation agency’s counsel strongly opposed giving bail to Swapna. However, Swapna’s counsel submitted before the court that NIA has not provided the copy of the FIR.
Swapna Suresh released an audio message to the media on Thursday in which she said that she is not involved in the smuggling and she contacted the Customs officials as per the request of UAE Consulate officials.
The scam, worth Rs 15 crore, came out when the Customs officials at Thiruvananthapuram international airport seized 30 kilograms of gold from an air cargo baggage addressed to UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. The gold was smuggled in a chartered flight.
The officials inspected the baggage after getting prior permission from the Ministry of External Affairs as they are not authorised to check baggage addressed to consulates and consulate officials as it has diplomatic immunity. The inspection was based on a tipoff. It is for the first time that smuggled gold is being seized from diplomatic baggage.
The case turned into a political controversy and the Kerala government has removed principal secretary to chief minister’s office and IT secretary M Sivasankar, who is allegedly shared close links with Swapna Suresh.