Kochi:  The National Investigation Agency (NIA) informed the Kerala high court that the former woman employee of the UAE consulate, key suspect in the gold smuggling bid through diplomatic baggage Swapna Suresh has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Making the submission while opposing the anticipatory bail application of Swapna who is still absconding, the counsels for the Centre and the NIA said she had criminal antecedents. It added that Swapna was involved in arranging diplomatic papers for the smuggling of the over 30 kg gold seized by customs recently in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram.

They added that custodial interrogation of the woman was required to ascertain her role in the smuggling. The counsel for the NIA, which has been asked by the Centre on Thursday (July 9) to probe the case, said there was a legal bar on high court entertaining anticipatory bail applications in cases investigated by the NIA.

After hearing the submissions, Justice Ashok Menon declined the prayer of the petitioner seeking interim protection against arrest. He posted the plea of Swapna Suresh to Tuesday after her lawyer made a plea for adjournment, saying the decision to hand over the case to NIA was taken on Thursday evening only after the anticipatory bail petition was filed a day earlier.

Justice Menon directed the NIA to provide a copy of the FIR to the accused. Earlier, the central government counsel submitted the statements of R Sarith Kumar, also a former employee of the UAE consulate and arrested in connection with the case, and the wife of another absconding accused Sandeep.

Their statements revealed that Swapna, Sarith Kumar and Sandeep were involved in the gold smuggling, the counsel said. Swapna Suresh, on the run since her name cropped up after seizure of the over 30 kg gold sent through air cargo and addressed in the name of a diplomatic person in the UAE consulate, in her anticipatory bail application claimed she had no involvement in the smuggling.

In the plea filed through online, the woman alleged she contacted the Customs department on behalf of the present acting charge of the Consulate General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram. She claimed the Consulate General of UAE had asked her to check with the Customs regarding the delay in delivery of "his consignment" that reached on June 30.

"Thereafter I contacted the Assistant Commissioner of Customs with regard to the release of diplomatic baggage," she maintained in the bail plea. The woman said she worked with the UAE Consulate General Office as Executive Secretary from 2016 and resigned from the post in September, 2019 before joining as a contract staff in PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd (PWC) and dealt with the Space Park Project under the IT department of Kerala government.

However, the woman claimed she has been working with the consulate "Work on Request Basis" and "obeyed the directions" of the Consulate General of UAE, after the Consulate again sought her assistance in various administrative matters as she has experience in consulate work.