5 kg gold and cash hidden in a secret vault; ED arrests Kerala jewellertext_fields
Thiruvananthapuram: During the raids by The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the premises of prominent jewelers in Kerala regarding the gold smuggling case, a secret chamber with 5.058 kg gold worth Rs 2.51 crore is seized by the agency. The chamber was found at the residential premises of Aboobacker Pazhedath, a jeweller in Malappuram.
Rs 3.79 lakh in cash is also confiscated by ED at the residence, and further investigation on the matter is on.
According to ED press release, Aboobaker Pazhedath is part of the alleged gold smuggling syndicate headed by Sarith, Swapna and Sandeep Nair, under the patronage of Sivasankar IAS. He is one of the beneficiaries of the smuggling.
On Wednesday the agency said that it has conducted searches on the premises of Malabar Jewellery (Malappuram), Fine Gold (Malappuram), Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt Ltd (Kozhikode) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
"Of the smuggled gold seized by the Customs, 3 kg gold belonged to Pazhedath, the promoter of Malabar Jewellery & Fine Gold Jewellery, both based in Malappuram, Kerala and one of the shareholders of Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt. Ltd., Kozhikode.
"On examination under PMLA, Aboobacker Pazedath had admitted that 3 kgs of gold seized by Customs belonged to him and apart from that, he had also admitted that he had smuggled 6 kg gold in a similar manner in the past through diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate," the ED said.
According to the agency, The amount for buying the said smuggled gold was raised from his business firms viz. Malabar Jewellery, Fine Gold and Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt. Ltd. Discreet inquiries conducted have further revealed that Pazhedath was still indulging in gold smuggling-related activities through his above firms.
A case was lodged by the ED on the basis of an FIR registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, consequent to the seizure of 30.245 kgs of smuggled gold by Customs (Preventive) at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, which was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage of UAE Consulate, Thiruvananthapuram.
Accused Sarith PS, Swapna Prabha Suresh and Sandeep Nair were arrested in 2020 by the economic intelligence agency. A prosecution complaint was also filed in 2020 against the three.
During the course of an ongoing investigation relating to the seizure of smuggled gold by Customs, it was learnt that Rs 14.98 lakh was handed over by Sarith to his cousin Akhil S for keeping in safe custody.
Further investigation revealed that M Sivasankar, IAS, the then Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Kerala was also allegedly involved in assisting the accused in gold smuggling and projection of proceeds of crime as untainted property. Hence, Sivasankar was also arrested by ED and he was arraigned as an additional accused. A supplementary prosecution complaint against the accused, including Sivasankar, was filed in 2020.