Dubai: A counter-terrorism court in India has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against an Indian expatriate in Dubai who has been accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, involving an alleged diplomatic parcel addressed to the UAE Consulate in the south Indian state.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi, issued the arrest warrant against the accused on Tuesday, Indian media reports said.
NIA is the central counter-terrorism law enforcement agency that is currently probing the case in which 30kg of gold reportedly valued at Dh7.4million was seized from a parcel that was sent from Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram.
The NIA informed the special court that it will hand over the warrant to Interpol as the accused is currently in Dubai, Asian News International (ANI) reported.
When contacted, the Indian Consulate in Dubai told Gulf News that they work with the local authorities in such cases. However, the consulate said they are yet to receive any information related to this particular case.
"We are aware of an ongoing case, but have yet to recieve any formal information," said consular officials.
The accused was interviewed by Malayalam television channels on Sunday, but he denied any link to the smuggling case and claimed that his name had been wrongly dragged into it.
However, the NIA on Monday corrected the name of the accused through another submission in the court due to an earlier spelling mistake.
When Gulf News tried to contact the accused on Tuesday, his mobile numbers were either not reachable or switched off.
Consulate seal and emblem forged
The NIA has informed the court that the accused allegedly forged the seal and emblem of the UAE Consulate to commit the crime, news reports said.
“The documents were forged by [the accused] to ensure diplomatic protection for the baggage. [He] is the third accused in the case. The gold smuggled into Kerala was not used for jewellery but terror, activities. The accused smuggled gold twice in 2019, in two batches of 18kg and 9kg,” the NIA had submitted.
The NIA had earlier requested the court to allow proceedings for the issuance of a Blue Corner Notice from Interpol (to collect information on suspects) against the accused.
The UAE Embassy in New Delhi had earlier condemned the attempted misuse of diplomatic channels by an individual engaged in smuggling activity.
“The Embassy firmly rejected such acts and unequivocally affirms that the mission and its diplomatic staff had no role in this matter,” the mission had stated.
The UAE Ambassador to India, Dr Ahmad Abdul Rahman Al Banna, had expressed his faith in the Indian judicial system and hoped that the name of the UAE mission would be cleared in the case.
“We trust the Indian authorities and have full faith in their investigation process. We know they are capable and will do their best in investigating the case and they will release the name of our consulate from any misconduct,” Al Banna had told Gulf News.
The consignment smuggled as diplomatic baggage was busted by customs officials in Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, following which, Sarith. P.S, a former Public Relations Officer (PRO) at the UAE Consulate in Kerala, was arrested.
The case turned out to be quite sensational after the Opposition in the state alleged the involvement of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) as a co-accused. Swapna Prabha Suresh, one of the accused, reportedly had connections with the Principal Secretary to CMO, who was removed from the post.
After the arrest of the PRO, the case was handed over to NIA which nabbed Suresh, who had also previously worked with the Consulate, and another accused, Sandeep Nair.
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Both Sarith and Suresh had been sacked from their jobs at the mission earlier, but had reportedly continued to offer personal assistance to some of the officers.
The special NIA court had on Monday sent Suresh to NIA custody for eight days until July 21.
The NIA has registered a First Information Report (FIR) under Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, against four accused persons, of which three have been arrested, news agency ANI reported.