Smuggling accused Suresh’s bail plea rejected

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram

A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Monday rejected the bail application of main accused in Kerala gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh and ordered that provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act will remain in the case.

Meanwhile, investigating the UAE leg of the case, a team of NIA officials reached Dubai on Sunday night to interrogate a key accused , Faisal Fareed , currently in custody of the police there, and pick up evidence gathered by the authorities there, people familiar with the matter said.

Apart from Fareed, who is believed to be the man who sent gold in diplomatic baggage from Dubai, the two-member NIA team will question a few other suspects who have been taken into custody by Dubai police, the officials said.

One of the officials, who asked not to be named, said that Fareed’s firm was contracted in the UAE to clear and send diplomatic baggage to India. It is suspected that Fareed also set up a network of hawala dealers and couriers to help sell the gold once it was in Kerala. Fareed is an Indian hailing from Kerala’s Thrissur but resides in UAE.

The anti-terror probe agency , last month, also approached Interpol seeking a “blue notice” against Fareed. A blue notice is issued to collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime. Investigations by NIA have revealed that Fareed forged the seal and emblem of the UAE embassy to ensure diplomatic protection for the baggage and the gold coming here was to be used for terror activities.

During its stay in Dubai, NIA team will also seek details of shell companies, which were used for transferring the money, as well as hawala operators linked to gold smuggling. UAE authorities are believed to have carried out some investigation into the matter on India’s request and will likely to hand over their findings to the NIA team.

In Kochi, where the bail application was heard last week, Suresh’s counsel opposed the invoking of UAPA against her, saying no terror angle was involved and the case only dealt with economic offences but Assistant Solicitor General P Vijaykumar , appearing for NIA contended that major proceeds from the smuggling were diverted to fund anti-national activities. After a week-long hearing, unusual in bail petitions, the court posted the decision for Monday.

This is the first time UAPA is being imposed in the country in a smuggling case. “Earlier smuggling came under the Customs Act but after the amendment in UAPA, money laundering and serious economic offences that affect country’s stability also come under it. True, this is first time UAPA is implied in smuggling case,” said Supreme Court lawyer M R Abhilash.

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