Why UAPA? Special court hearing gold smuggling case asks NIA

Gold smuggling case: NIA probe may shake up Kerala politics

The National Investigation Agency(NIA) Special Court hearing the Thiruvananthapuram airport gold smuggling case has asked NIA, to state why it intended to charge the accused under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The court also directed the NIA to produce the case diary while hearing a bail plea moved by main accused Swapna Suresh on Wednesday.

The gold smuggling racket was unearthed when the Customs, on July 5, seized a 30-kg gold consignment which arrived on an Emirates flight on June 30. The seizure was made on July 5.

The prosecution told the court that divulging any details of the ‘terror links’ of the accused would adversely affect the investigation.  

The prosecution argued that Swapna Suresh’s influence was the most important factor which facilitated the smuggling of gold in the baggage addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. The arguments hinged on the ‘fact’ that Swapna was the mainstay of the smuggling operation and there would have been no case if Swapna wasn’t there in the scheme of things, sources said.

The court was told that the perusal of the case diary would enable the court get all details of how each one of the accused was part of anti-national activities.

Ramees, another accused, planned to bring in as much gold as possible at a time when the country was in an economic slump, the prosecution said. The accused had ‘specific intentions,’ they added.  

Swapna’s lawyers argued that UAPA was imposed due to political reasons and she was not listed as accused when Customs made the arrest initially.  

Reference to spy case

Swapna Suresh
Swapna Suresh

The defence side argued that the case was false and foisted, just like the ISRO spy scandal case which rocked Kerala many years ago. Swapna’s lawyer Joe Paul started is arguments by drawing the court’s attention to the plight of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who had a harrowing time facing a probe by five agencies. The scientist was later acquitted of all charges.  

The NIA told the court that the assistant solicitor-general was supposed to appear on their behalf but the legal officer could not turn up due to the flood-like situation in the city.

 Customs custody

The court could grant custody of Swpna Nair and Sandeep to the Customs as the Enforcement Directorate did not press for the same.  

There was pressure on customs as the agency could not make any headway even though it had made the initial arrests of Swapna Suresh and Sandeep. The NIA’s evidence-gathering and questioning was also taking time and this too prevented the Customs from securing their custody.

The Enforcement Directorate also stepped in and filed a custody application in the Economic Offences Court. The Customs had filed its custody application in the Principal District and Sessions Court.

The Customs Commissioner had reportedly told his officers that Swapna Suresh and Sandeep were the key accused and there should not be any delay in interrogating them.

 The court had on July 27 declined a Customs’ plea for a three-day custody extension of Ramees, another accused.

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