Kochi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday gained custody of Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case.
Though she was questioned by the agency earlier this is the first time that she will be interrogated following questioning of state Minister KT Jaleel. She will also be questioned on the basis of the digital forensic evidence gained from her mobile phones and laptops.
Swapna was on Tuesday sent to the NIA's custody till Friday.
The NIA is expected to check and counter-check all the statements of Swapna and will compare them with the statements taken from Jaleel and also those of suspended IAS officer M. Sivasankar, the powerful former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, Sandeep Nair, another accused in the case was granted bail from the Customs case by the Economic Offences Court on Tuesday. Sixty days have passed since his arrest.
The court granted bail to the accused as a charge sheet on the case has not yet been filed. Sandeep will however, continue in remand as NIA has registered a case against him under the UAPA law.
NIA raids C-APT office
In a related development, a team of NIA officials arrived at the state-run C-APT (Kerala State Centre for Advanced Printing & Training) office in the state capital on Tuesday and questioned a few staff members as it was this centre which was engaged in distributing copies of the Quran across the state.
Jaleel, who has been questioned once by the Enforcement Directorate and the NIA, is in all likelihood to be called in by the Customs very soon. His name figured in the probe after he was linked with Swapna.
Jaleel said he knew Swapna and had agreed to distribute copies of the Quran and the dates brought from the UAE after the Consulate officials asked him if he could help them.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA staged protests across the state, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for "shielding corrupt Ministers like Jaleel".
Vijayan has strongly defended Jaleel and has given him a clean chit, stating that he has done no wrong and there is no question of his resigning, amid protests by the opposition demanding that Jaleel quit.
The gold import scam was busted after the Customs arrested PS Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate on July 5, and since then, several others have been arrested including Swapna, who was also a former employee of the Consulate and later moved into an organisation attached to the state IT department.
This job for her was facilitated by Sivasankar, who she describes as her mentor.
(With IANS inputs.)