In a development in the controversial Kerala gold smuggling case, the Customs Department, which is investigating the case, has decided to serve notice to two top former UAE officials who worked at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Sources told news agency IANS that the move comes at a time when Customs is getting ready to file its complete chargesheet in the gold smuggling case.
During the interrogation of the accused persons in the case, they had alleged that two top officials in the Consulate had left India after the case surfaced, according to IANS. As part of the probe, Customs will now serve a show cause notice to the two officials through the Ministry of External Affairs. The two officials will be given 30 days' time to reply to the notice, following which Customs will proceed according to the due process of law.
The gold smuggling case surfaced on July 5 last year, with the seizure of 30.24 kg of gold from diplomatic baggage meant for Rashed Khamis Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia, the acting Consul General of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Later, it also surfaced through the arrested accused, that gold was smuggled multiple times similarly through diplomatic baggage between November 2019 and June 2020.
The case became sensational with the arrest of Swapna Suresh, former staff of the UAE Consulate, who was a staffer of a project under the Kerala governmentâ€™s IT department at the time of her arrest. She is one of the key accused in the case. The Enforcement Directorate then also arrested M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and senior IAS officer, in connection with the case. Sivasankar, who was removed from the post, is now out on bail.
In the dollar smuggling case which was unearthed following this, $1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) was allegedly smuggled by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, to Muscat in Oman. It is alleged that Swapna Suresh and another accused Sarith PS, aided the Finance Head.
The Congress-led opposition used the gold smuggling case as a major campaign issue ahead of the April 6 Assembly elections in the state, though it failed to change the electoral fortunes of the Vijayan-led LDF, which retained power with a resounding victory.
(With IANS inputs)
Watch video of the smuggled gold: