Sandeep Nair, accused in gold-smuggling case, walks out of jail

Sandeep Nair, an accused in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case
Sandeep Nair, an accused in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case. File photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Sandeep Nair, one of the main accused in the sensational gold smuggling case that rocked Kerala last year, walked out of prison on Saturday as his custody period under COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling) ended after a year.

A multi-agency probe was initiated after the Customs seized 30kg gold from diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in July, 2020.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe on the directive of the Union Home Ministry, had stated that the proceeds of smuggling could be used to fund terror activities.

Key accused P S Sarith, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair were subsequently arrested.

Swapna and Sarith are former employees of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram and allegedly used their past connections to smuggle gold using the diplomatic channel.

While Sarith was arrested by the Customs, Swapna and Sandeep Nair were nabbed from Bengaluru by the NIA.

Sandeep had been named as the fourth accused in the case.

However, Sandeep later agreed to confess to his crimes to the NIA and subsequently turned an approver. In September, 20201, Nair filed a plea saying he was willing to reveal the details of the gold smuggling racket under Section 164 (Recording of confessions and statements) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Following this, he was not named in the chargesheet filed by the Agency before the NIA Special Court in Kochi in January, 2021.

Sandeep was earlier granted bail in the gold smuggling case as well a dollar smuggling case registered by the Customs as well as the NIA.

A person arrested under the COFEPOSA Act can be sent behind bars for a minimum of one year. Sandeep was let out of jail as this custody period ended.

The case

The gold smuggling racket was busted on July 5 when a consignment addressed to the UAE Consulate was opened by Customs at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport following a tip-off. The inspection revealed 30 kg of gold hidden in sanitary items. Soon enough, the NIA registered a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA. Later, the Enforcement Directorate initiated a probe into a money laundering angle.

The dollar smuggling case pertains to smuggling of 1.90 lakh US dollars carried out by UAE Consulate’s former finance department head Khalid Ali Shoukri with the help of Swapna and Sarith who are two of the accused in the gold smuggling case.

Swapna's fate

The COFEPOSA charges against Sandeep's accomplice Swapna were dropped by the Kerala High Court on Friday. Hearing a plea filed by her mother, a division bench of the court noted that the charges under COFEPOSA do not hold good.

However, she will continue to remain behind bars as she faces charges slapped by the NIA.

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