Thiruvananthapuram: Swapna Suresh, one of the main accused in the Trivandrum airport diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, and her gang received about Rs 58 crore through a bank account started in the name of the UAE Consulate purportedly for charity, the investigation team looking into the gold smuggling case has found.
The amount included the Rs 20 crore assistance for the Life Mission project that reached the account from the UAE-based Red Crescent. Of this Rs 20 crore, Rs 14.5 crore was handed over to a flat construction company involved in the Life Mission scheme in Thrissur’s Wadakancherry. It is alleged that Swapna and her gang took over Rs 4 crore in commission.
There are six accounts in a single bank in the name of the UAE Consulate. The Rs 58 crore reached one of these accounts. The account now has only Rs 4 crore left.
The remaining amount was converted into Indian rupees through another account in the same bank and then it was spent. It was used to make payments to some organisations. It is learnt that Swapna and her gang took money for these transactions also.
Some of the organisations that received the money are under the radar of the central investigation agencies.
Bank accounts opened in the name of a consulate enjoy diplomatic protection and do not come under the purview of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Swapna and her gang were aware of this and that is why they opened a parallel account in the name of the UAE consulate without its knowledge, officials said.
The account was opened when Swapna wielded great influence in the consulate. Investigators believe the it may have been opened with forged documents.
Forged seals and fake documents in the name of the consulate were seized from the house of PS Sarith, the first accused in the gold smuggling case and a former PRO of the consulate. Sarith is under arrest.
The NIA is also investigating whether there were any other similar accounts. Organisations are not allowed to make direct dealings through Consulate accounts.
Flood relief amount flowed into the account
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had visited the UAE in October 2018 to seek help after the floods in Kerala. At that time, Swapna and the former principal secretary to the chief minister M Sivasankar were also in the UAE.
There are indications that Swapna, using the authority she had at the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, sought flood relief from various international organisations. It was those relief amounts that came through the account she had opened in the consulate’s name. In 2018 itself, the account received $12 lakh (Rs 8.80 crore). It got $26 lakh (Rs 19.20 crore) in 2019. The rest of the amount was received this year.