Two key accused in the sensational gold smuggling case in Kerala, Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, were taken into custody by the NIA from Bengaluru on Saturday, official sources said here.
Highly placed sources in the multiple investigation agencies involved in the case confirmed to PTI here about the National Investigation Agency (NIA) taking the duo into custody.
Swapna, a former employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, is among the four accused booked by the NIA in the smuggling of 30 kg of gold through diplomatic baggage which arrived at the Thiruvanathapuram International airport on July 5.
The gold valued at around Rs 15 crore was seized by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi.
Swapna, Sarith and Sandeep Nair of Thiruvananthapuram and Fazil Fareed of Ernakulam have been listed in the smuggling case as accused.
Both Swapna and Sandeep had been on the run since their names cropped up in connection with the case a few days ago.
Sarith has already been arrested by the Customs (Preventive) Department.
The Central agencies including the NIA and the Customs had opposed Swapna's anticipatory bail plea in the Kerala high court.
The two accused were taken into custody a day after the NIA began the investigation into the case after a Union Home Ministry order in this connection.
The NIA had on Friday registered the FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and said it has taken up the probe as the case has international linkages and as the initial inquiries have revealed the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India.
Also, as the case pertains to smuggling of a large quantity of gold into India from offshore locations, threatening the economic stability and national security of the country, it amounts to a terrorist act as stated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The development came two days after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his "intervention for an effective investigation" and after the Union Home Ministry allowed the agency to probe it, saying the incident "may have serious implications for national security".
The news about the two accused being taken into custody came a few minutes after Kerala police chief Loknath Behera constituted a special team to assist NIA and Customs to nab the absconding accused.
Kerala has been on the boil with the Congress and its allies and the BJP staging protests targeting the left government and demanding chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's resignation after the woman was found to be working in the state IT department, a portfolio held by Vijayan, and sacked after her name surfaced in connection with the smuggling.
Vijayan on Saturday said an inquiry will be held into the complaint on the alleged fake degree certificate submitted by Swapna Suresh for securing appointment in a government project under the state IT department.
The state government has also removed senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was the secretary to the Chief Minister and the IT Principal secretary, following allegations that he had close links with the woman suspect.
The official has gone on a year's leave.