THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The UAE foreign ministry had conducted inquiries twice on the working of the country’s consulate in Thiruvananthapuram after receiving a slew of complaints, including charges of financial irregularities. Some of these complaints were against Swapna Suresh, then executive secretary of the consulate, but no strong action was taken against her owing to her clout in the diplomatic mission, highly-placed sources told TNIE.
The sources said the inquiries were held during 2018-2019, but nothing happened thereafter as Swapna, a key suspect in the gold smuggling case, managed to stay put using her influence in the mission. However, those who had complained had to go and even the diplomats, who stood up against her, had to go through the mill. The UAE officials were not available for response despite efforts.
A diplomat, who was then the attache, had tried to straighten her out. Sources said the diplomat, a UAE citizen, had tried to apprise the higher-ups of Swapna’s baleful influence in the office to no avail. “He had informed them about Swapna meddling in certain activities, but her influence was so strong that his complaint did not get any favourable response and he had to quit midway,” a source said One of the complaints was about the abuse of power and amassing of wealth by Swapna.
‘Swapna always protected her lackeys’
This complaint arose after a new firm was entrusted with the task of handling foreign exchange. The new firm replaced two existing firms, both having years of experience. The complaint to the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), filed by one of the consulate employees, alleged that Swapna and a few other consular staff had received kickbacks or had shares in the firm.
“This complaint was lodged with MOFA when the new firm was given the charge of handling foreign exchange. It was charging more than Rs 1,000 in commission from each client when 150-200 people visited the consulate for various purposes. In the complaint, it was stated that Swapna and a few other prominent people had floated the company in a benami name,” said a former consulate staff, who wished to remain anonymous.
Finally, this complaint played a role in Swapna’s exit. Though dismissed, she was allowed to attend the UAE National Day celebrations on December 2, 2019. A former HR department staffer recollected how Swapna scythed through people she viewed as a threat and protected her lackeys. “One of the female staff had complained to the HR department that she was sexually abused by a senior security officer. At that time, Swapna was not in office and the security officer was asked to go on leave. However, when she returned, she fired the official who took action against the offender and called the security officer back. This security officer is still working there though his contract was revoked and a new one was roped in,” said the ex-staffer.
The person said the security officer had unrestricted entry into the consulate and was in charge of searching the goods reaching the consulate. “Without his knowledge, no one can take anything inside. With the news of Swapna’s involvement in gold smuggling coming, I wonder whether that person was protected for some reason,” the ex-employee said.
Involvement of major racket
Bare facts in the T’Puram gold smuggling case are enough to indicate the involvement of a major racket that has influence in higher echelons of the UAE and Kerala.