KOCHI: Indian enforcement and intelligence agencies strongly suspect the involvement of senior officials of United Arab Emirates (UAE) government in the gold smuggling case as diplomatic procedures were found to be flouted for processing the consignment addressed to Charge d’ Affairs of UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.Senior officials, privy to the probe, told TNIE that the probe has found serious lapses on the part of the office of UAE Consulate General. The remand report of Sarith PS—who has been arrested in the case —stated he was completely involved in the clearance of cargo, claiming to be PRO of UAE Consulate.
The probe found that “Sarith used to place orders to one Fasil who runs a provision shop in the UAE for supplying, packing and forwarding the diplomatic cargo as instructed by Sarith, which is not the legal practice of forwarding diplomatic cargo”.The investigation revealed that while all the Customs clearing charges pertaining to the cargo originally meant for the consulate are paid to the Customs broker directly by the consulate through RTGS, payment for other consignments was made directly by Sarith in cash.
According to an official, the Protocol Hand Book of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) clearly stipulates that only the local Indian staff issued with Special Photo Identity Passes, with a validity of one year, are entitled to the collection of diplomatic consignments from the airport. “How can a former staff of the consulate be deployed to take receipt of a diplomatic consignment? Though the official concerned of the consulate has given a statement that he has nothing to do with the additional materials found in the cargo other than food stuff, it’s hard to bite his version. Diplomatic consignments are cleared at various levels by the office of consignee because of its sensitive nature and to prevent misuse,” the official said.
According to the remand report, the Charge d’Affairs had informed the Assistant Commissioner that though Sarith was no longer a staff of the consulate, he used to take the latter’s help for odd jobs as he was not familiar with the rules and procedures in India.
He told the investigators that Sarith has been helping him in his personal capacity. Customs officials also found that Sarith had formatted his mobile phone pointing to the fact that he tried to destroy the evidence. “We have raised a couple of queries to the Consul General with regard to the access given to a private party to the diplomatic consignment. We have also apprised the MEA of the probe details,” a Customs official said.