By: Nandika Chand | Last Updated July 9, 2020
The recent seizure of 30kg of gold from a diplomatic cargo has rattled Kerala with smugglers having alleged links with senior government officials. The UAE has denied any knowledge of this package which was addressed to its consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Sources said M Sivasankar, the principal secretary to Kerala CM, was removed after he was found in the close network of an alleged key player – Swapna Suresh of the smuggling racket. Suresh had earlier worked as executive secretary at the UAE Consulate-General’s office.
The UAE embassy in New Delhi said an investigation had been launched after the discovery was made last Sunday. The gold was part of the diplomatic cargo from Dubai which reached the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The cargo was listed as bathroom fittings, noodles, biscuits and dates sent from Sharjah-based Al Zatar Spices. Law states that diplomatic cargo should not be subjected to routine Customs examination and should be cleared as early as possible but the Customs already had info about the gold.
The embassy said that besides committing a major crime, the culprits have sought to tarnish the reputation of the UAE mission in India and will not be spared. “We remain committed to cooperating with Indian authorities in getting to the root of the crime,” it said.
Moreover, UAE’s embassador to India confirmed that the consulate had dismissed a former worker, Sarith Kumar, several months ago because he was not doing his job. Sarith Kumar, who had worked as a local PRO for the Consulate-General office in Thiruvananthapuram and had been dismissed a year ago, tried to claim the cargo under the pretext that he was still with the Consulate. But the Customs had already been informed that Kumar had been removed and had not been assigned to get the diplomatic cargo cleared. The Customs then decided to open the consignment in the presence of the officials of the UAE Consulate.
Kumar informed the authorities of his accomplice – Swapna Suresh who worked at the Consulate since 2016 till seven months ago. She went into hiding a day before the Customs decided to open the diplomatic cargo. Suresh was well known in social, bureaucratic and political circles. However, she was sacked over a criminal case.
Customs officials believe there is a huge smuggling lobby operating in the Middle East. This case is being probed.