KOCHI: Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh and Sarith P S told customs that former UAE Consul-General Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi smuggled gold to Kerala for himself six times.
The agency also suspects that one time, another consulate staffer smuggled gold to Kerala in billiard sticks. Swapna and Sarith, who are also accused in the related dollar smuggling case, had mentioned the allegations against Jamal in the deposition before the magistrate as part of their confession statement recorded under CrPC Section 164 last year. The revelations were also mentioned in the show-cause notice issued to other accused in the dollar smuggling case.
In her statement, Swapna alleged that Jamal brought gold on three occasions while coming to Thiruvananthapuram. On three other occasions, he used foreign women to smuggle gold during their visits to the consulate.
“Each time when he was bringing something illegal, the diplomat would inform them (Swapna and Sarith) and ask them to ensure that the formalities at the airport are finished fast. He would specifically instruct Sarith to ensure that there is no delay in immigration and that his luggage is cleared within no time,” the show-cause notice said.
The notice also mentions Swapna's revelation that three women – one each from Egypt, Morocco, and the UAE – possessing foreign passports allegedly brought in gold for Jamal. The Egyptian has been identified as Yasmin Al Bakry who arrived here in December 2019. Though luxury hotels were booked for the ladies' stay, they often stayed at the consulate.
In one instance, the diplomat got tensed and angry when the immigration clearance of one of the women got delayed at the airport. He asked Swapna to speak to M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to ensure safe passage. When she called Sivasankar, Swapna was told to write a letter to the CM.
“Sivasankar also confirmed that necessary arrangements would be made for Jamal. He also sent Swapna and Sarith documents mentioning that Jamal was included in 'X Category' and was therefore provided personal security,” said the notice.
In his confession statement given before the magistrate, Sarith said the former finance head of the consulate Khalid Ali Shoukry, an Egyptian, once brought a pair of billiards sticks on his arrival at Thiruvananthapuram airport. However, the customs did not clear the item after initial scanning made them suspect the presence of a metal in its handles. They wanted to scan it again.
“In the meantime, Khalid called Sarith and asked him to 'stick on with sticks'. Sarith then informed the Customs that the sticks were for the UAE Consulate and that they were diplomatic cargo. The items were then cleared,” said the notice.
Sarith also alleged that smuggling of currencies by various diplomats while traveling out of Thiruvananthapuram was regular. Apart from it, Jamal used to smuggle out Oudh (perfume), medicines (ampules) banned in UAE, and cloth materials which he sold there via Instagram.
The customs show-cause notice said the interrogation of the UAE consulate diplomats was important for the case. The agency has approached the Ministry of External Affairs stating that Jamal and other diplomats no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity and hence permission be granted for questioning.
“The interrogation of diplomats is vital in the gold and the dollar smuggling cases. The investigation makes it clear that illegal activities were rampant under the cover of diplomatic immunity. We are awaiting a response from MEA,” said an officer.