Kochi: Apart from Sandeep Nair, four more accused are likely to be made approvers in the diplomatic gold smuggling case by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The NIA reportedly plans to begin the trial after making five of the accused, who revealed the details of the crime, turn approvers to help prove the UAPA charges slapped on 20 of the 21 accused, who have been arrested.
The NIA had arrested Sandeep Nair along with prime accused Swapna Suresh from Bengaluru. The charge-sheet was filed against the 20 accused within 180 days of their remand. Probe has been initiated against 31 accused so far.
Sandeep Nair is the fourth accused in the case.
Norms on becoming approvers
The NIA has not yet revealed who all are the approvers other than Sandeep Nair.
Accused, with a lesser involvement in the crime but privy to the offence, can be recommended to be made approvers by the probe officer. But accused, with direct involvement in the crime, are not permitted to turn approvers by the courts.
The approvers should be kept in judicial custody till the trial is over, as per the rules.
However, the approver in the actress assault case in Kochi walked out on bail before the trial was over, the defendant had pointed out. And the trial court had sought an explanation from the probe team.
The NIA has filed a chargesheet against 20 people before a special court here for their alleged involvement in smuggling 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in diplomatic baggage into Kerala.
All the accused, including Sarith P S and main accused Swapna Prabha Suresh, both residents of Thiruvananthapuram, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Suresh and Sarith were former employees of the UAE consulate and they allegedly used their past connection to smuggle gold using the diplomatic channel, the official said.
The case was registered by the NIA on July 10, 2020 against Sarith, Swapna, Faisal Fareed, Sandeep Nair and others under sections of the UAPA after the seizure of around 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore on July 5, 2020 at Trivandrum International Airport by Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi, from the import cargo addressed to the Charge D' Affaires at the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Thiruvananthapuram.
Absconding accused Suresh and Sandeep were arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru on July 11, 2020.
During investigation, 31 more people, who had conspired and financed gold smuggling besides facilitating the disposal of the contraband and transfer of proceeds thereof to the UAE through hawala channels, for purchasing and smuggling more gold, with the intention of threatening the economic security of India, were arraigned as accused in the case.
So far, 21 accused have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case, while eight are absconding.
The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg of gold on July 5 last year from a diplomatic baggage at the air cargo of the Trivandrum International Airport by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi.
The NIA investigation revealed that the accused had knowingly conspired since June 2019, raised funds and smuggled around 167 kg of gold into the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) between November 2019 and June 2020 through the import cargo addressed to diplomats at the Consulate General of the UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.