KOCHI: Customs probing the case related to smuggling of $1.9 lakh to a foreign country will interrogate employees of UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram and close aides of gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and Sarith P S in the coming days. Customs suspects that a hawala channel was operating with the help of diplomats to send large amounts of currency notes abroad.
During the gold smuggling case probe, customs had found that former UAE Consulate finance head and Egyptian national Khalid Ali Shoukry had smuggled 1.9 lakh US dollars to Cairo via Muscat from Thiruvananthapuram airport in August 2019. This was revealed by Swapna and Sarith, former employees of the Consulate, during interrogation. Now they have revealed names of more diplomats, including the Consul General, who were part of the racket.
“Swapna and Sarith stated that it was a common practice among foreign nationals, including diplomats working at UAE Consulate, to carry currency notes above permitted limits. We suspect that they were engaged in hawala activities to fund smuggling of gold from Dubai to Kerala. Similarly, they also smuggled goods from abroad using diplomatic privileges and sold them in Kerala market. Many Indian employees of the consulate were aware of such activities and they will be questioned soon.
We are also trying to get the statements of diplomats who enjoy immunity through the Ministry of External Affairs,” said a customs officer. Customs will also grill Unitac Builders MD Santhosh Eapen. As per the statements of Swapna and Sarith, a majority of US dollars smuggled by Khalid was arranged by Eapen as a kickback in the LIFE Mission project in Wadakkancherry. “He will be questioned soon. We have to question a few more Consulate employees before issuing notice to Eapen for interrogation,” a Customs official said.
Meanwhile, Customs on Friday grilled Jayghosh, former gunman of UAE Consul General. Jayghosh had attempted to commit suicide after the gold smuggling case came to the fore. He was present at customs office in Kochi following a notice issued in this regard. According to Customs sources, he was questioned about people who were close to the Consul General in Kerala.