Kochi: The accused in the gold smuggling case could be deliberately trying to dodge and derail the investigation by making allegations against the UAE consulate and its functionaries, the investigators suspect.
The accused, Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair, and Sarith, had given statements against consulate officials. The investigators suspect a concerted anti-consulate stance after prime accused K T Ramees also gave a statement in a similar fashion.
Sources said it was not unusual for the accused to give statement that could potentially subvert the prosecution’s line. In such cases, the practice is to usually take detailed statements of the people in question. In this case, the accused were pointedly giving statements against the consulate because they were aware of the immunity the latter enjoyed. Investigating agencies in the country would not be able to approach them or question them.
Also, sources pointed out that a charge-sheet would be deemed incomplete if it is filed without the statements of the consulate officials in questions. This would only serve to weaken the prosecution arguments.
The investigation will get delayed if the agencies approach the UAE Government for permission to question its consulate officials.
Even in cases registered under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the accused can get bail if a charge-sheet is not submitted in 180 days.
Also, the UAE Government was unlikely to let the Indian agencies question its staff in a case which purportedly had ‘terror’ ramifications, sources said.
Investigators were of the view that the accused were aware of these facets and were deliberately dragging in the UAE consulate in the statements.
The NIA is basing its arguments on the Customs finding that the accused had forged, seals, emblems, and documents of the UAE consulate.
The case pertains to a 30-kg gold seizure that the Customs made at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport on July 5. The consignment came in on June 30. One of the main accused Swapna Suresh had high-level links and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to remove his then Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar as the shadow of doubt stretched to him. Now, it is a multi-agency probe involving the NIA, Customs, and the Enforcement Directorate.