The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday said that it has conducted searches on the premises of four prominent jewellers in Kerala and seized 5.058 kg gold worth Rs 2.51 crore.
Malabar Jewellery, (Malappuram), Fine Gold (Malappuram), Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt Ltd (Kozhikode) and residential premises of Aboobacker Pazhedath (Malappuram) were searched by the probe agency.
During the course of searches, a secret chamber for concealing gold jewellery was found on the premises, which resulted in recovery and seizure of 5.058 kg of gold jewellery worth Rs 2.51 crore, along with Rs 3.79 lakh in cash.
The ED lodged the case on the basis of an FIR registered by National Investigation Agency (NIA), Kochi, under sections 16, 17 and 18 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, consequent to the seizure of 30.245 kgs smuggled gold by Customs (Preventive) at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, which was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage of UAE Consulate, Thiruvananthapuram.
Accused Sarith P.S., Swapna Prabha Suresh and Sandeep Nair were arrested in 2020 by the economic intelligence agency.
A prosecution complaint was also filed in 2020 against the three.
Further investigation revealed that M. Sivasankar, IAS, the then Principal Secretary to Chief Minister of Kerala was also involved in assisting the accused in gold smuggling and projection of Proceeds of Crime as untainted property. Hence, Sivasankar was also arrested by ED on and he was arraigned as additional accused.
A Supplementary Prosecution Complaint against the accused, including Sivasankar, was filed in 2020.
During the course of ongoing investigation relating to the seizure of smuggled gold by Customs, it was learnt that Rs 14.98 lakh was handed over by Sarith to his cousin Akhil S. for keeping in safe custody.
Money laundering investigation further revealed that Aboobaker Pazhedath of Malappuram is part of the Gold Smuggling Syndicate headed by Sarith, Swapna and Nair, under the patronage of Sivasankar, IAS. Pazhedath was one of the beneficiaries.
“Of the smuggled gold seized by the Customs, 3 Kgs gold belonged to Pazhedath, the Promoter of Malabar Jewellery & Fine Gold Jewellery, both based in Malappuram, Kerala and one of the share-holders of Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt. Ltd., Kozhikode, Kerala. On examination under PMLA, Aboobacker Pazedath had admitted that 3 kgs of gold seized by Customs belonged to him and apart from that, he had also admitted that he had smuggled 6 kgs gold in similar manner in the past through diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate.
“The amount for buying the said smuggled gold was raised from his business firms viz. Malabar Jewellery, Fine Gold & Atlas Gold Super Markets Pvt. Ltd. Discreet inquiries conducted have further revealed that Pazhedath was still indulging in gold smuggling related activities through his above firms,” said the ED.
Further investigations in the matter are on.