More big fish, foreigners involved in gold, currency smuggling: Swapna

More big fish, foreigners involved in gold, currency smuggling: Swapna
Swapna Suresh. File photo

Kochi: Investigators out to unravel the smuggling of gold and foreign currency have likely apprehended or identified only some collaborators. Swapna Suresh, a key accused who played a critical role in executing the operations of the racket through the diplomatic channel, has lately disclosed that more overseas nationals and higher-ups are involved in these operations with links to the Middle East and Kerala.

Swapna's statement containing her disclosures about the involvement of more people in the smuggling of gold and dollars has been submitted by the Customs investigation team to the Economic Offences Court here in a sealed cover.

Notably the confidential statement given by co-accused P S Sarith on November 28 and 29 corroborates Swapna's disclosures. His statement too has been handed over to the court in a sealed cover.

Swapna had earlier revealed the involvement of suspended bureaucrat M Sivasankar in the operations of gold and currency smugglers.

The court in its order observed that it viewed Swapna's statement with a lot of apprehension. The disclosure about the involvement of more foreigners outside the UAE Consulate in gold smuggling is a matter of grave concern considering the likely bearing on national security.

The court did not include in its order the names of people in high posts and foreigners mentioned in Swapna’s statement as it felt that publicising them at this stage could adversely affect the investigations.

The investigation team has meanwhile hinted that the dollar smuggling probe may not be limited just to Sivasankar, the bureaucrat already arrested by the Enforcement Directorate and the Customs.

Custody extended

Meanwhile, the Ernakulam Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court extended Swapna and Sarith’s custody for three more days after her fresh disclosures to the Customs. After examining her statement, the National Investigation Agency is also likely to seek Swapna's custody yet again for questioning.

Sivasankar's role

The Customs has apprised the court that Swapna has given a statement disclosing that Sivasankar had a role in the smuggling of gold as well as dollars.

The Customs had earlier registered a currency smuggling case too after Swapna disclosed that Khalid Ali Shoukri, the former head of the finance department of UAE Consulate, had smuggled out US dollars equivalent to Rs 1.90 crore to Oman in 2019.

The court will decide on Custom's plea for Sivasankar's custody for further questioning on Tuesday. The case was posted for Tuesday as Sivasankar’s advocate had opposed the custody plea of Customs. He argued that despite being in custody for 5 days, no questions were asked based on Swapna's crucial statement dated November 27.

Sivasankar's counsel further argued that a SIM card that the investigation team claimed to have traced was used only in an iPad and his client had not called anyone using the same.

Confidential matter

Swapna and Sarith have reportedly informed that they want to disclose a few matters only to the court.

Owing to constant police presence we cannot say many things openly, the duo conveyed to the court.

The court directed them to jot down whatever they want to say and pass it on to the court through their counsels. Additional time was allotted to them to meet their advocates for this purpose.

Advocate Jo Paul's plea that he wanted to speak to Swpana was also allowed by the Principal Sessions Court. The accused can speak to her lawyer again at 2:30pm on Thursday when the Customs custody period ends.

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