Two key accused in the alleged smuggling of 30 kg of gold through diplomatic channels at the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, were taken to different locations around the city on Saturday to collect evidence in the case. Swapna Suresh and Sarith, the accused, were taken to their homes and offices by one of the agencies probing the case.
“We have conclusively established that 180 kg of gold was smuggled via this diplomatic route. We are in the process of recovering it but the total amount smuggled is suspected to be much more,” an official of the probe agency told NDTV.
This route has been used by the syndicate between 12 and 13 times, the official added.
Officials suspect Swapna Suresh and Sarith “found this smuggling route” but other accused, including Sandeep Nair and Rameez, are considered crucial links to those higher up the money trail – the financiers and distributors.
“The UAE diplomat who left India was crucial to this case. After all, the syndicate was operating under the shield of diplomatic immunity,” a senior official involved in the probe said.
That is why preliminary permission was taken from the External Affairs Ministry to open the diplomat’s bags in front of the acting Consul General.
“He was called twice as part of the process. There have been several bags received either in his name or junior officers in the consulate. The possible content, links and role have to be probed,” the officer added.
Three bags were received in quick succession – between June 25 and July 3 – the officer said.
The UAE diplomat reportedly left India, via Delhi, last week.
The NIA has requested Interpol to issue a Blue Corner Notice against another accused – Faisal Fareed – according to news agency ANI.
Meanwhile, a Kerala Police officer attached to the acting Consul General was found Friday with injuries to his wrist. He had earlier been reported missing; when filing the report his family claimed he had received threats from two men on a motorcycle.
“I don’t know anything,” he was heard mumbling as cops rushed him to hospital. His statement was taken by the District Magistrate on Saturday.
According to accused Swapna Suresh, it was the acting Consul General who had asked her to check on diplomatic baggage and return it once they were opened in his presence and the unaccounted gold was found.
Swapna Suresh, in her application for anticipatory bail, said she worked for the consulate on a “request basis”. Officially she was working for the Space Park project under the Kerala State Information Infrastructure Ltd.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has clarified she was employed by a private firm on contract and was not a government employee. His office confirmed that her contract was terminated as soon as the allegations emerged. “This government is not going to shield any accused or anyone with links in this case. You have seen it,” the Chief Minister said.
M Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to Mr Vijayan, has been suspended from the services pending an inquiry. A team of senior bureaucrats found he had recommended Swapna Suresh for the post. His suspension came amid continuing allegations from the opposition that Mr Vijayan’s office continues to shield the accused. The chief minister’s office has denied these charges.
The opposition UDF is set to move a no-confidence motion against the government over this matter.
With input from ANI