Kochi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday informed a Special NIA Court in Kochi that two main accused in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case in Kerala, Faisal Fareed and Rabins Hameed, have been arrested by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Police.
The agency told the court that this was conveyed by the UAE authorities during the visit of the NIA team to Dubai in August as part of its probe into the case.
It said that during the preliminary visit of the NIA team there, the UAE authorities informed them that Fareed, the third accused and Hameed, the 10th accused, had been arrested and that strict action would be taken against all conspirators, "as the accused in this case have attempted to damage the friendly relations between India and the UAE."
The NIA stated this in its counter, opposing the bail plea of seventh accused P Mohammed Shafi.
Fareed, who owns a luxury gymnasium and automobile workshop in Dubai, was arrested by the UAE Police in July after Interpol, on the request of India government, had issued a Blue Corner notice against him. His passport too was blocked.
The agency said the UAE authorities had also revealed that the crime was committed by Fareed and Hameed, pursuant to the conspiracy with other accused arrested in India and absconding in the UAE, "who all had knowingly funded, facilitated and smuggled gold through diplomatic cargo of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram by forging or deceitfully obtaining authorisation certificates from UAE diplomats."
NIA said based on non-bailable warrants issued by the NIA Special Court, the process has been initiated to get INTERPOL Blue Corner Notices issued against the fugitives, including Fareed, Hameed and four other accused, Siddiqul Akbar, Ahmed Kutty, Raju alias Rathees and Mohammed Shameer, for securing their presence in India.
The agency also said Mutual Legal Assistance Request was also being finalised to obtain evidence in this case from the UAE, as a major part of the transactions, especially funding through reverse hawala and purchase of smuggled gold, had occurred in the UAE.
"Based on the facts ascertained through investigation in India, evidence has to be collected, during further visits of NIA investigators to the UAE, regarding the source of smuggled gold and the involvement of any other players, inimical to the economic security of India, in facilitating the crime from UAE," it said.
Opposing Shafi's bail plea, NIA said he was the main organiser of smuggling, along with fifth accused Rameez, since November 2019 and had smuggled gold 21 times through diplomatic baggage of the UAE consulate, "with the intention of threatening the economic security of India.'
Shafi had conducted conspiracy meetings with Rameez, Hameed, accused Said Alavi and Hamsath Abu Salam and others in UAE and arranged finances, besides gold at Dubai, to be smuggled to India, the NIA said.
The NIA had charged Faisal with forgery, aiding and abetting terrorism, and complicity in smuggling. When early reports about Faisal Fareed came out, Faisal had denied it to the media. But when the agency confirmed that he was indeed the culprit, Faisal went into hiding. His house in Kodungallor was also raided.
Rabins Hameed was nabbed after Customs learned of his involvement in aiding Faisal Fareed to smuggle gold. It was also learned that he had hawala transactions in Dubai.
Faisal is said to have arranged for the gold that was smuggled through the diplomatic channel into Kerala. He would buy gold in Dubai and the UAE after Sandeep Nair, the fourth accused in the case, would send him money through the hawala route, investigators have said.
About 200 kg of gold was smuggled into the country in this manner since June 2019 till the racket was busted on July 5. The diplomatic baggage with 30 kg of smuggled gold worth about Rs 15 crore that was seized at the Trivandrum airport was addressed to Rashed Khamis Al Shameli, the Charge d’Affaires of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Swapna Suresh and P S Sarith Kumar, two former employees of the consulate, are the first and second accused in the smuggling case.
(With PTI inputs)