Gold smuggling scam | Swapna Suresh, others get bail in NIA case

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Swapna Suresh, Sarith P.S.and six other accused in the diplomatic gold smuggling cases, in a case registered against them by the National Investigation Agency(NIA) under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA).

The Bench comprising Justice K.Vinod Chandran and Justice C.Jayachandran passed the verdict while allowing the appeals filed by the accused against the Ernakulam NIA Special Court’s order rejecting their pleas for bail in the case.

The other accused who got bail are; Mohammed Shafi P, Jalal A.M., Rabins Hammed, Ramees K.T., Sharafudeen K, and Mohammed Ali.

The NIA case is that the accused, including Swapna, with the requisite knowledge and intention to threaten and destabilise the economic security of the country had conspired with each other, recruited persons, formed a terrorist gang, raised funds, and smuggled gold from the UAE in large quantity through the diplomatic channel. Thus, they had damaged the country’s friendly relations with the UAE and committed terrorist activities punishable under Sections 16, 17, 18 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Additional Solicitor General appearing for the NIA had submitted that the charge sheet filed in the NIA special court showed that the accused were "frontliners" and that the charges against them were grave. Despite the finding that smuggling of gold did not fall under the ambit of Section 15 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act UAPA (the act of terrorism), the High Court had earlier denied bail to the seventh accused in the case. Therefore, the same yardstick could be applied in this case as well.

Counsel for Swpana Suresh and other accused had contended charge sheet did not disclose the involvement of transnational forces and financing of terrorism as was alleged during the investigation period. In fact, the charge sheet did not make out an offence under the UAPA. The charge sheet had alleged only the offence for gold smuggling which was punishable under the Customs Act.

The accused in their petition pointed out that the crime was registered for the offence under UAPA on the suspicion that the proceedings of smuggling might have been used for financing terrorism in the country. However, the charge sheet filed after the conclusion of the investigation had ruled out the possibility of financing terrorism and the involvement of the transnational forces. Besides, the trial in the case was unlikely to commence in the near future.

The court had earlier quashed the continued preventive detention of Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the gold smuggling case, under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA). The court , however, had dismissed the plea against the detention of PS Sarith, another accused in the gold smuggling case.

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