NIA opposes Swapna's bail bid, cites smuggling-terror link

NIA opposes Swapna's bail bid, cites smuggling-terror link

Kochi: The central government has taken a tough stand against Swapna Suresh, a prominent suspect in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, in the Kerala high court.

Ravi Prakash, the counsel for the Union government, has asked the court to not consider her anticipatory bail plea, given that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is now looking into the case.

He said as per Section 21 of the NIA Act, the High Court cannot consider the anticipatory bail plea. Only a special court can consider the application, he told Justice Ashok Menon, who was looking into the application.

The lawyer for NIA told the court that the agency has registered a case under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) based on allegations that funds were being raised for terrorism through gold smuggling. Under these circumstances, as per section Section 43D of the UAPA, the court should reject the anticipatory bail application, the NIA said.

The counsel of the Union government said for the investigations to progress, it is necessary to question Swapna in custody.

Sarith, Swapna Prabha Suresh, and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram and Fazil Fareed of Ernakulum have been named in the case which relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore at Trivandrum International Airport on July 5.

The Customs Department’s actions in the case were based on information that Swapna and her accomplices P S Sarith Kumar and Sandeep Nair were involved in gold smuggling, he said.

The gold that has been seized is worth crores of rupees. The statements given by Sarith and Sandeep's wife Sandhya to the investigating agencies make it clear that Swapna had intervened to get the baggage released from the Customs Department.

This is in complete contrast to what Swapna has claimed in her anticipatory bail application, the central counsel argued.

NIA opposes Swapna's bail bid, cites smuggling-terror link

In her application, Swapna has claimed that she has got nothing to do with the smuggling operations and that this was an attempt to frame her in the case.

The truth can only be known by questioning Swapna in custody, the counsel said.

Swapna’s behaviour has been strange. The Customs Department tried to call her many times, but they could not get in touch with her. She switched off her phone and went into hiding. Swapna has been accused in many crimes before, the counsel for the Centre said.

The case concerns national security and financial stability and, therefore, the court should not grant anticipatory bail, senior advocate for the Centre K Ramkumar said.

The court then posted the next hearing in the case for July 14.

Swapna’s lawyer T K Rajesh demanded copies of the affidavit filed by the Customs Department and the FIR filed by the NIA.

In the anticipatory bail application, Swapna has claimed that she had called up the Customs Department to get the baggage released after the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram requested for her help.

Rajesh Kumar produced before the court the emails from the consulate asking for her intervention.

As reported earlier, India's premier agencies — the CBI, NIA and ED — have taken up the case. On Thursday, the Union Home Ministry said the NIA will look into the case since it may have "serious implications for national security."

The Customs had seized a diplomatic baggage with about 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crore. Swapna, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, is one of the accused.

Her accomplice Sarith has been arrested.

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