Kochi: Two key accused in the sensational Kerala gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, were on Tuesday sent to five-day Customs custody by a court in Kochi.
Considering the petition by the Customs Department, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court of Economic Offences in Kochi granted it custody of Suresh and Nair till August 1.
It directed the Customs to keep Swapna Suresh under the surveillance of a lady Customs officer not below the rank of Superintendent during custody.
The Court also observed that it found no harm in positively considering a request by the woman that she may be given an opportunity to interact with her children at least by electronic means in the supervision of an Investigation Officer subject to feasibility.
The duo was formally arrested by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate on July 24 when they were produced before the Special NIA Court in Kochi as their custody period ended.
Suresh and Nair, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Bengaluru on July 11, were subjected to custodial interrogation by the agency earlier.
In its plea seeking the custody of the accused, the Customs said the investigation is at infant stage and arrest of more persons named Faizal Fareed and Rabins, who allegedly control smuggling operation, is required for the purpose of future successful investigation.
Noting that statements of some high profile people were being recorded by Customs as well as NIA, the Customs said the cross-checking of those statements are essential to test the credibility and also unravel the truth.
In a related development, the NIA special court in Kochi on Tuesday sent Ramees K.T., one of the kingpins in the gold smuggling case, to seven day NIA custody.
Ramees, arrested by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate on July 11 in connection with the case, was formally arrested by the NIA on Monday.
Filing the application for 10-day custody of Ramees, the NIA said his custodial interrogation is required to unearth the truth in the case.
A detailed probe regarding the gold and money trail of the case is to be conducted in a larger conspiracy in the case.
Considering the plea, the NIA Court granted the investigation agency seven day custody of the accused.
Central agencies, including NIA and Customs, are conducting a separate probe into the seizure of gold worth nearly ₹15 crore from a “diplomatic baggage” at the Thiruvananthapuram International airport on July 5.
Suspended IAS official quizzed by NIA
Suspended senior IAS officer M. Sivasankar on Tuesday appeared before the NIA team probing the gold smuggling case using diplomatic channel in Kerala.
This is the third time in the past one week that NIA is grilling the officer, removed as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the State IT Secretary after allegations of his link with a key woman accused in the case surfaced.
Sivasankar, who was questioned for nearly nine hours on Monday, was directed by the NIA to appear before the team again this morning.
Earlier on July 23, Sivasankar was questioned for five hours by the NIA team at the Peroorkada police club in Thiruvananthapuram. The Customs Department had also questioned him earlier.
Action was taken against Sivasankar after allegations surfaced that he had links with Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the case related to the attempt to smuggle gold through diplomatic baggage using the name of a person in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Customs seized the gold, weighing over 30kg and valued at around ₹15 crore on July 5.
The NIA, which has been entrusted with the probe into the case, has booked Suresh and three others – Sarith, Sandeep Nair and Faizal Fareed – under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Suresh and Sarith were former employees of the UAE consulate and allegedly used their past connection to smuggle gold using the diplomatic channel.