THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A day after the Customs seized around 30 kg gold from a diplomatic consignment bound to the UAE Consulate General, Thiruvananthapuram, the case came knocking at the door of the office of the Chief Minister. A former UAE consulate officer, Swapna Suresh, who is also the marketing liaison officer of the Space Park under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL), is the main accused in the case.
Soon after the case hit headlines, BJP state president K Surendran came up with scathing remarks against the office of the Chief Minister. In a hurriedly convened press conference, he said as soon as she was accused in the case, the office of the Chief Minister and IT secretary exerted pressure on the Customs to release her. Their involvement in the case can be known by checking the phone records of the office of the chief minister and IT secretary, he said.
In the meantime, the Customs revealed that the woman is on the run, while a former Consulate PRO Sarith was arraigned by the Customs in the case. He was taken to the Customs office Kochi after he confessed to the crime. It is suspected that though Sarith was expelled from the office, he had been keeping in touch with some officials in the Consulate including Swapna. Since he knew that the diplomatic baggage would not be subjected to detailed scrutiny, he used the diplomatic channel to smuggle large quantities of gold into the state.
Swapna, who had been cooperating with Sarith until her tenure in the consulate, continued her cooperation in the smuggling even after she left the office. She has also allegedly used her connections to get things cleared. In the meantime, the UAE consulate made it clear that they have no role in the alleged smuggling and their staff were not involved in any kind of malpractices. The Customs opened the diplomatic consignment in the presence of the Consular Attaché following a tip-off on gold smuggling through the diplomatic baggage.
As soon as the case grabbed headlines, the state government removed Swapna from her post saying her posting was on contract basis. She was removed after her name was listed as an accused in the gold smuggling, a government source said. The Customs had seized 30.24 kg gold hidden inside the diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate general office on Sunday. They opened the box after securing permission from the Ministry of External Affairs.