Accused in Kerala gold smuggling case walks out on bail

Thiruvananthapuram: The fourth accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, Sandip Nair, on Saturday walked out of the Central jail on getting bail after the Kerala High Court on Friday dropped the charges registered against him under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act.

Following the high court order, the charges registered against the prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh, under the COFEPOSA Act were also dropped, but she continues to be in jail as she still faces other charges slapped by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe team.

Last year, Sandip Nair, the fourth accused in the case registered by the NIA, had submitted a plea in a special court in Kochi, stating that he is willing “to reveal the entire facts voluntarily under the provision of Section 164 (recording of confessions and statements) of the Code of Criminal Procedure” and “is ready to turn approver with the permission of the court”.

The smuggling case came to light on July 5, 2020, when the Customs arrested Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, for allegedly smuggling gold in a diplomatic baggage destined for the Consulate.

Swapna Suresh, who previously worked in the UAE Consulate, and her associate Sandip Nair were arrested in the case by the NIA from Bengaluru a few days later. Since then, all three have been in judicial custody.

Speaking to the media soon after he came out on bail, Nair said that Sarith was his good friend for many years and it was through him that he came to know Swapna Suresh.

“I am no big businessman, as I had started my own business after availing various bank loans. I turned approver by telling the facts of the case to the court and I stand by what I have said. Please wait for a while, the entire truth will come out,” Nair said.

Incidentally, when strict restrictions were imposed on travel last year to arrest the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, both Swapna Suresh and Nair had managed to drive from here to Bengaluru from where they were arrested by an NIA team a few days later.

Eyebrows were raised at that time on how they managed inter-state travel.