NIA suspects terror funding in Kerala gold smuggling case
The proceeds from gold smuggling might have been used for terror funding, according to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The agency submitted that the accused had forged documents pertaining to the UAE consulate to send gold through diplomatic baggage. The accused had smuggled in gold on three occasions using the forged documents, it submitted.
- This would attract the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) slapped on the accused.
- The agency invoked Section 16 and 17 of the UAPA, which prescribes punishment for raising funds for terrorist activities, against the accused
- A diplomatic bag, also known as a diplomatic pouch, is a container with certain legal protections used for carrying official correspondence or other items between a diplomatic mission and its home government or other diplomatic, consular, or otherwise official entity.
- The most important point is that as long as it is externally marked to show its status, the "bag" has diplomatic immunity from search or seizure as codified in article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
- It is often escorted by a diplomatic courier, who is similarly immune from arrest and detention
- The stash of gold was part of diplomatic cargo from Dubai which reached the Thiruvananthapuram international airport last week.
Salient Features of the UAPA Act
- The Act gives special procedures to handle terrorist activities, among other things.
- Who may commit terrorism: According to the Act, the union government may proclaim or designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
(i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism,
(ii) prepares for terrorism,
(iii) promotes terrorism, or
(iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.
The Bill also empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
- Approval for property seizure by National Investigation Agency (NIA): As per the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director-General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. The Bill adds that if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director-General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
- The investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA): Under the provisions of the Act, investigation of cases can be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
- Insertion to the schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, comprising of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). The Bill adds another treaty to this list namely, the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).
National Investigation Agency (NIA)
The NIA is the central counter-terrorism law enforcement agency in the country. It was created in 2008 after the Mumbai terror attack
- The NIA can investigate terror cases across the country without having to get permission from the states.
- The agency investigates terror offences, waging war against the country, offences on nuclear facilities, etc.
- It came into force after the Parliament passed the National Investigation Agency Act 2008.
- The agency’s aim is to become a professional investigating agency matching global standards.
- It also aims at being a deterrent for existing and potential terrorists, apart from being a storehouse of information on terrorism.
- The NIA functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The agency is headquartered in New Delhi and has 8 regional offices across India.
- It is headed by a Director-General (an IPS officer).
Jurisdiction of the NIA
- The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to the investigation of such offences, across India.
- The officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.
- The central government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases as if the offence has been committed in India.
- The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.