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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Kerala gold smuggling: Swapna Suresh moves HC for anticipatory bail, says UAE diplomat asked her to contact Customs

In the petition, accessed by indianexpress.com, Suresh, currently on the run, stated that though she resigned from the consulate in September 2019 and joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a contractual staff, she continued to work closely with the consulate under 'work on request basis'.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi | Updated: July 11, 2020 8:02:07 am
Kerala gold smuggling, Swapna Suresh moves HC for bail, Kerala news, Kerala high court, Kerala news, On June 30, Swapna Suresh claimed she was directed by Al Shameli to check with Customs regarding the delay of his consignment to Thiruvananthapuram from UAE.

Swapna Suresh, the woman suspected by the Customs department to have played a key role in the gold-smuggling racket at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, filed an application for anticipatory bail before the Kerala High Court on Thursday. In her petition, she claimed she was being falsely implicated in the case and that she had contacted the Customs officer at the airport on the directions of Rashid Khamis Al Shameli, who holds acting charge of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, regarding the delay in his consignment.

The case relates to seizure of 30 kilogram of smuggled gold from a diplomatic cargo addressed to the UAE Consulate-General Office in Thiruvananthapuram last week.

In the petition, accessed by indianexpress.com, Suresh, who is currently on the run, stated that though she resigned from the consulate in September 2019 and joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a contractual staff, she continued to work closely with the consulate under ‘work on request basis’. She claimed her assistance was sought in administrative matters of the consulate owing to her experience in that field.

Read | Smugglers use relaxed checks amid Covid, get in gold through expats in spl flights: Customs

On June 30, she claimed she was directed by Al Shameli to check with Customs regarding the delay of his consignment to Thiruvananthapuram from UAE.

“Again on 1/7/2020, as a secretary under work on request basis, the Consulate General instructed her to contact the Customs officer, cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram and as a part of discharging the official duties, the petitioner called the Assistant Commissioner of Customs and verified the status of diplomatic cargo. Thereafter on 1/7/2020 at about evening, the Consul General of UAE has received an email in the office of the Assistant Commissioner Customs, air cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram requesting the presence of his Excellency for the verification of the diplomatic cargo at 11 am on 3/7/2020. 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 petition read.

Read | Kerala gold smuggling case: CM Vijayan writes to PM Modi, seeks effective probe by central agencies

Later, Suresh claimed she was asked to prepare a letter to the Assistant Commissioner of Customs seeking the “re-export” of the cargo. On July 5, 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.

Read | Centre has taken serious note of gold smuggling case, says Union minister

The same day, Sarith Kumar, who previously worked as a PRO with the UAE Consulate, was arrested by Customs officials in connection with the smuggling of gold. Kumar, during questioning, named Suresh as an accomplice.

In her plea for anticipatory bail, Suresh claimed she contacted the Customs officer through phone “as per the instruction from Consulate General as a part of her official work”. “But now, the petitioner realised that the media is spreading numerous false stories alleging the involvement of the petitioner in the smuggling activity,” it said.

Kerala gold smuggling explained|  Diplomatic cargo, an absconding woman and a consulate under scanner

“The petitioner is living with her family consisting of her husband and two children, the younger son who is studying in third standard and an elder daughter who is studying for the second year degree course. The petitioner belongs to a respectable family and has no criminal antecedents. Moreover, the accused is a lady who undertakes before this honourable court that she has no intention to flee from justice.”

Suresh’s alleged role in the gold smuggling racket and her connections to former principal secretary M Sivasankar, under whom she worked as a contract staff with the state government’s flagship Space Park project, has snowballed into a major controversy in Kerala. Opposition parties like the Congress and the BJP charge that the office of the chief minister is linked to the racket and have demanded the resignation of Pinarayi Vijayan.

The case is currently being probed by the Customs department with only the arrest of Sarith Kumar recorded so far. The involvement of a top trade union leader in the case is also under the scanner.

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