Gold smuggling suspect flees to Iran

The probe into the operation of a Kochi-based racket that smuggled gold into Kerala using an Irish national has taken a new turn with Customs sleuths tracing Nibu Mathew, a key suspect in the case, to Iran.

According to officials, Nibu landed on Kish Island under the Islamic Republic of Iran four months ago using a fake passport. They, however, are yet to verify the route through which he had managed to leave the country.

“Though we traced him to Kish immediately after he landed there, we were under the impression that Nibu reached there for renewing his visit visa to the UAE. But with reports pouring in over some 20 youths from Kasargod and Palakkad leaving the country in a similar manner, we now suspect if his case has anything to do with these incidents,” they said.

Based on the finding, a Central intelligence agency has launched a probe to find out if some of the missing youths, including Nibu, had any links with the booming fake passport trade in Kasaragod. “We have verified that Nibu has not left the country with a passport issued in his name. He had connections with the fake passport rackets in Kasaragod and must have travelled abroad on a fake passport,’’ sources held.

Info sought

The Customs had earlier announced a bounty of Rs.10,000 for those providing actionable information about Nibu, a second-hand car dealer in Kochi, who has been absconding since the arrest of a foreigner with 10 kg of gold at the Kochi airport. They had traced him to various hideouts in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Masanagudi but were unable to take him into custody.

Meanwhile, the Customs has now approached the External Affairs Ministry requesting cancellation of the newly issued passport of Tariq Muhammad Akber, the racket’s kingpin. Though the authorities had already impounded his original passport through the passport office in Kochi, Tariq obtained a fresh one through the Indian Embassy in UAE.

Tariq, a native of Edappally, who runs a business in Dubai, was the racket’s kingpin and recruited Edwin Andrews, an Irish national, as a carrier a couple of years ago. Edwin, who was caught in July last year at the Kochi airport, is reported to have smuggled in 123 kg of the yellow metal from Dubai through Kerala airports. He has now been detained under COFEPOSA and is serving a term at the Poojappura central jail.

Investigations have revealed that the entire gold smuggled by the racket had been delivered to a Kochi-based jewellery group.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 10:05:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/Gold-smuggling-suspect-flees-to-Iran/article14548664.ece

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