Gold Smuggling: Swapna Names UAE Consulate Official In Bail Plea
Swapna Suresh, who is at large, in connection with smuggling gold in a consignment addressed to UAE consulate Charge d’ Affairs, has said in her bail application that she acted upon instructions from the UAE consulate in Kerala.
Naming Rashid Khamis Al Shemelli, the acting diplomat in charge of the UAE consulate, Swapna has stated in her bail application, she contacted the customs official as Al Shemelli had requested her to do so.
In her bail application, in possession with The Lede, Swapna claims that even though she resigned in September 2019 from the UAE consulate, she still works for the consulate on a request basis.
“She was directed by Al Shameli to check with customs officials regarding the delay of his consignment to Thiruvananthapuram from UAE on June 30,” bail application reads.
Again, on July 01, the consulate general had allegedly instructed Swapna to contact the customs office at cargo complex in Thiruvananthapuram.
And Swapna called the assistant commissioner of customs and verified the status of the diplomatic cargo.
Thereafter on July 01 evening, the Consul General of UAE had received an email from the office of the assistant commissioner customs, air cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram requesting his presence for the verification of the diplomatic cargo at 11 am on July 03.
“Thereafter, the consul general of UAE went to the cargo complex and verified the cargo and admitted before the customs authority that the said cargo belongs to him,” the bail application reads.
She adds in the petition that she was asked to prepare a letter to the assistant commissioner of customs seeking the “re-export” of the cargo also.
Meanwhile, on July 05, the cargo was opened by customs officials in the presence of those from the UAE consulate in which 30 kilograms of gold, valued at Rs 15 crore, was found concealed along with some food items.
The same day, Sarith Kumar, who previously worked as a public relations officer with the UAE consulate, was arrested by customs officials in connection with the smuggling of gold.
Sarith, during questioning, had reportedly named Swapna as an accomplice.
The consignment in which the gold was concealed was addressed to the Charge d’ Affairs of UAE consulate in Kerala.
The remand report seen by The Lede reveals that the Charge d’ Affairs had agreed that the foodstuff belongs to him but that the smuggled gold does not belong to him or to the consulate.
He had agreed that as he was unaware of the local laws, he used to hire Sarith to do odd jobs.
Interestingly, the food stuff was one kg of Yaseen Dates, one packet of Nestle milk powder, one kg of Tang powder, three packets of Good Day chutneys, two packets of Quaker Oats, 10 packets of Indomie Instant noodles, two packets of Maggi Curry noodles, one packet of Maggi fried noodles and two packets of Indomie cup noodles.
A customs official told The Lede, that Sarith was insisted that the consignment be cleared and he appeared to be in a panic.
“This led us to probe further. And additionally, the consignment details had food stuff which we get here for cheaper price,” the official told The Lede.
Meanwhile, the gold smuggling case has been taken over by the National Investigation Agency.
Additionally, an official from NIA told The Lede that the accused will be booked under Sections 15, 16, 17, 18 of UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).
These sections charge offences related to terrorism and helping terrorists.
“We see that organised rackets with international links are behind the gold smuggling,” the NIA official added.
He also added that bail for Swapna seemed doubtful.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said that it has allowed the National Investigation Agency to investigate the Thiruvananthapuram airport gold smuggling case, as the organised smuggling operation may have serious implications for national security.
Earlier this week, Kerala had removed senior IAS officer M Shivasankar, who was the secretary to the Chief Minister and the IT Principal secretary, following allegations that he had close links with Swapna in the case. The official has gone on a year's leave.
On Thursday, various television channels aired a voice clip, reportedly of Swapna, which claimed that she had no role in the smuggling case.
One Sandeep Nair, a businessman in Thiruvananthapuram is also on the run. He is a friend of Swapna.
Swapna had brought Kerala Assembly Speaker P Ramakrishnan to inaugurate Sandeep’s workshop in December 2019.
Meanwhile, on Friday, protests were held in many areas of Kerala as the opposition demanded the resignation of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the airport gold smuggling case.
In Kozhikode, many were injured after police resorted to baton charge on agitating Youth League workers.
In Kochi too, Yuva Morcha protests turned violent. In Kannur, police lobbed teargas shells to control protesters.
And in Kannur, Youth Congress workers held a protest rally outside CM Vijayan’s ancestral house.