CBI, NIA in pursuit of TVPM gold smuggling case, powerbroker Swapna remains elusive

CBI, NIA in pursuit of TVPM gold smuggling case, powerbroker Swapna remains elusive

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: The three main investigating agencies in the country are likely to carry out simultaneous inquiries into the gold smuggling racket that was being operated using diplomatic immunity at the Trivandrum International Airport and was unearthed by the Customs department on Sunday.

The department seized 30 kg of gold worth about Rs 13.5 crore that was being smuggled into Kerala from the UAE in a diplomatic baggage.

As the investigations into the smuggling and related financial transactions continue, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have also joined the probe given the international nature of the racket and to see if national security has been compromised.

Meanwhile, the Customs department conducted raids the whole day on Tuesday at the flat of Swapna Suresh, who is alleged to have carried out the smuggling operations by using forged documents of the UAE Consulate that provided her diplomatic exemptions for baggage arriving at the airport.

Swapna Suresh was employed at the SpacePark, which functions in association with ISRO.

The NIA is looking into how Swapna got a job as a marketing liaison officer at the SpacePark, run by the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd under the IT department of the state.

It is being alleged that she got the job with the help of former IT secretary of Kerala M Sivasankar.

Swapna was dismissed by the company after the smuggling racket came to light. Sivasankar has also been removed as the Electronics and Information Technology principal secretary.

The investigating teams have found evidence to show that the smuggling racket had pulled strings to get Swapna the post after she lost her job at the UAE Consulate.

The CBI has also started collecting evidence on the role of top state officials in the crime.

If need be, the help of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) will also be sought in the investigation.

The last instance when multiple premier investigating agencies worked simultaneously on a case was during the investigations into the 2G spectrum scam.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) may join the Customs department in investigating the financial aspects of the smuggling operation.

Swapna still absconding

The Customs on Tuesday said it was planning to issue a lookout notice for Swapna Suresh who is on the run.

Swapna who used to work at the UAE Consulate had left the job last year. The police said she was expelled from the job due to irregularities.

She is said to have run the racket with the help of the former PRO of the consulate Sarith Kumar.

When it became certain that he would be arrested after Customs seized the gold, Sarith is said to have destroyed all information in his phone by formatting it.

The charge d’ affaires of the consulate said Sarith Kumar had been given the contract to bring food items from the UAE after he lost his job as the PRO. He did not know this was against Indian law, he said.

Swapna was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, where she was employed with the passenger services department at the airport.

She shifted to Thiruvananthapuram after her divorce after the first marriage. After working in a travel agency for two years in Thiruvananthapuram, she got a job in Air India Sats as a trainer in 2013.

She is accused of having hoisted a false sexual harassment case against an officer of the ground handling department at the airport services company. The crime branch had interrogated Swapna a couple of times in the case. She admitted that she had made false allegations and that she had produced a woman under a false name before the Air India inquiry committee that was looking into her allegation.

She quit the company in just six months.

She later joined the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

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