The NIA has arrested six more people in connection with the smuggling of 30 kg of gold in diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram. According to the NIA, one of those arrested has links with the Islamist group Popular Front of India.
The arrests, which spanned three days, were followed by NIA (National Investigation Agency) raids at six places across the state, including residences of the accused. Two hard disks, eight mobile phones and six SIM cards, a digital video recorder and five DVDs were seized, as well as bank passbooks, travel and identity documents and debit cards.
On Saturday, Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Ali Ebrahim, both residents of Ernakulam, were arrested after evidence showed they were part of a larger conspiracy, besides aiding another accused, Jalal AM, in collecting smuggled gold from key accused Ramees KT and distributing contraband among other conspirators.
Jalal AM, who also hails from Ernakulam, had been arrested on Thursday, along with Said Alavi E, a native of Malappuram district, for conspiring with Ramees KT to smuggle gold via diplomatic baggage.
Muhammad Ali, whom the NIA has identified as a member of the Popular Front of India (PFI), was charge-sheeted by Kerala Police in the hugely infamous case of a professor’s palm being chopped off. He was acquitted after a trial in 2015.
In addition, two others were arrested on Friday – Mohammed Shafi and Abdu PT, both of Malappuram district. The NIA has arrested 10 people so far and investigations are ongoing, the agency has said.
Last week the NIA told a court that the two key accused in the case – Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair – had conspired to “damage the monetary stability of India” and were suspected of “financing terrorism”.
On Tuesday a Kochi court sent Ms Suresh and Mr Nair, who were earlier interrogated while in the custody of the NIA, to five-day Customs custody. At the same time an NIA special court sent Ramees KT to the custody of that agency for seven days.
Top sources from agencies investigating this case have told NDTV that at least 180 kg of gold had been smuggled via the consulate route, which had been used at least 12 times. The total quantity of gold smuggled by the syndicate is likely to be higher, the sources said.