Swapna, Sandeep go into COFEPOSA detention

They will have relatively more freedom and relaxed time table

The two main accused in the UAE consulate-linked gold smuggling case commenced their one-year preventive detention period under the provisions of the COFEPOSA here on Wednesday.

They are Sandeep Nair and Swapna Suresh. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had arrested them on the charge of imperilling the economic security of the country under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in July from Bangalore by illegally importing gold in diplomatic cargo marked to the UAE consulate here.

The accused had spent much of their days since their arrest by the NIA in judicial remand or in the custody of Central law enforcement agencies, including the Customs (Preventive) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The Customs had invoked the provisions of the COFEPOSA after the period of detention of the suspects ended recently. The NIA and the ED had opposed their bail in court. However, investigators felt the chance of the accused bail had improved given their long period in detention and repeated custodial questioning.

The NIA told the court that granting bail to the main accused would deter the progress of the probe. Moreover, the investigators felt that Sandeep Nair, who had given a voluntary confession about the crime under 164 Cr.PC to a magistrate, was vulnerable to threat and physical assault given the possibility that his deposition could bolster the NIA’s case against Swapna and others.

Jail wardens from Kochi escorted Nair to the Central prison here. They admitted Swapna, who was in a sub-jail for women in Ernakulam, to the preventive detention block of the Women’s Jail at Attakulangara. As COFEPOSA prisoners, the accused would have relatively more freedom and a relaxed time table compared to their term as remand prisoners.

The law enforcement had accused Swapna Suresh and P. Sarith of exploiting their stature as UAE consulate officials, to abet the smuggling of gold into the country in air frieght addressed to the foreign staff at the diplomatic mission.

The Customs suspect the accused had conducted 21 successful runs during the 2018-2020 period and illegally imported gold in bulk under cover of diplomatic trust and goodwill. So far, the agencies have arrested 21 persons in connection with the racket. They have sought the custody of two persons detained in Dubai.

The overlapping investigations by Central agencies into the racket had opened a Pandora’s box of allegations against the government. They resulted in the interrogation of at least one Minister and several top IAS officials, including the former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, M. Sivasankar.

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