Sivasankar among accused, charge-sheet filed in diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case

Sarith, Swapna Suresh and M Sivashankar
Sarith, Swapna Suresh and M Sivashankar (from left to right).

Kochi: The Customs probing gold smuggling using diplomatic baggage has submitted its charge-sheet in the sensational case that roiled Kerala last year. The investigation agency has named 29 accused in the charge-sheet submitted to a special court considering economic offences in Kochi on Friday.

According to the charge-sheet, P S Sarith is the prime accused while M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is the 29th accused. Sandeep and Swapna, other major perpetrators of the crime, have also been arraigned as accused.

Rameez is the one who organised the crime, as per the chargesheet.

The Customs, in its charge-sheet, said Sivasankar knew about the crime but he covered it up.

As per the charge-sheet, the accused smuggled in 169 kg of gold 21 times. The smugled gold was sold to some jewellery shop owners who in turn made ornaments using them. The Customs has not been able to recover all the smuggled gold. The buyers for the gold were identified after conducting smuggling twice on a trial basis.

Notably, the Customs said it has not found any evidence that the money made through smuggling was used for terror activities.

In January, the National Investigation Agency had filed a charge-sheet against 20 people before a special court in Kochi for their alleged involvement in the smuggling.

The accused have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore on July 5 last year from a diplomatic baggage at the air cargo of the Trivandrum International Airport by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin.

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.

The main accused in the case had planned to smuggle more gold from countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

The probe against the absconding accused and others who had facilitated them is on, the NIA said.

The consignment was found camouflaged in a diplomatic baggage from the UAE that is exempted from inspection in accordance with the Vienna Convention.  

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