Gold smuggling case: Court grants Customs 7-day custody of key gang member

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Kochi, Jun 29 (PTI) A court here on Tuesday granted the Customs seven-day custody of Arjun Ayanki, a key member of a Kannur-based gold smuggling syndicate, in connection with a sensational gold smuggling case through the Karipur International Airport last week.

Ayanki, who had appeared before the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate here on Monday, was arrested by the agency after hours long interrogation.

After recording his arrest, Ayanki was produced before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, the court had sent his accomplice Mohammed Shafeeque, who was arrested in connection with the case, to seven-day customs custody.

Sending Ayanki to Customs custody, the court observed that more investigation is required with reference to his complicity and link with persons involved in smuggling activities from dispensing end and receiving end.

It said joint interrogation of Shafeeque and Ayanki appears to be essential to unearth the truth.

The cross-check of answers would definitely help the future course of investigation, the court said in the order.

Ayanki's role came to the fore following the arrest of Shafeeque when he allegedly tried to smuggle 2,332 gm of gold through the airport on June 21.

In its application seeking custody of Ayanki, the Customs claimed that during his deposition, Ayanki has admitted that Shafeeque was arriving at Karipur airport with some contraband goods with an intention to smuggle the same and that he would receive an amount of Rs45,OOO as remuneration after handing over the same to concerned persons outside the airport.

Ayanki has also deposed that he lost his mobile phone in a river while he was hiding from the mediapersons, who came for reporting about his Swift car, it said.

Customs said the statement of Ayanki is contrary to the statement of the carrier, Shafeeque, who had deposed that the gold was smuggled for further handing over to Ayanki, who was present at the airport.

'WhatsApp chats and voice clippings prove that he was directly connected with the passenger and was also the mastermind of the smuggling,' the Customs alleged.

Though the car in which Ayanki had reached Karipur Airport was registered in the name of one Sajesh, investigation revealed that Ayanki was the actual owner of the car and Sajesh was only a benami, it said.

The investigating agency said their probe has revealed that Ayanki was living a luxurious life without any known source of income.

'Investigation has also revealed that a lot many youngsters are lured into the gold smuggling and these youngsters are being used as carriers, and are also used by gangs in snatching smuggled gold and also to give protection for the movement of smuggled gold. This trend which is a social menace warrants an in depth investigation', the Customs said.

It further said Ayanki has presented himself before the investigation team without his mobile phone or any proof of identity which is a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence.

The case grabbed the attention of the public following the death of a gang of five men in a road accident in Ramanattukara last week.

It was reported that the accident occurred when they were allegedly chasing another vehicle carrying members of a rival smuggling racket.

Ayanki is allegedly linked to one of these gangs.PTI TGB SS PTI PTI

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