All attempts to interfere in Kerala gold smuggling probe failed, says outgoing Customs Commissioner
"I need not report to the Chief Minister. My reporting officer is the Union Finance Minister, who has been very supportive. There is no point in putting pressure on me," said Sumit Kumar
KOCHI: There were attempts to influence the probe in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case, but the Customs department did not budge under pressure, said Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar during his farewell interaction with the media in Kochi on Saturday.
Sumit Kumar minced no words while lambasting the attitude of the Kerala police who failed to act on complaints of attacks on central agencies.
Though he did not name any politician or political party, Sumit Kumar maintained that the attempts to influence the Customs probe did not succeed. Regarding the allegations raised by the Kerala government, he said the Kerala Chief Minister is not his reporting officer. "I need not report to the Chief Minister. My reporting officer is the Union Finance Minister, who has been very supportive. There is no point in putting pressure on me. Earlier, I handled the case regarding a duty-free outlet at Thiruvananthapuram airport in which many politicians were involved. I had promised my team that till I am here the outlet will remain closed. Has it opened? People may try to influence but I am not concerned," he said.
Regarding his Facebook post that a political party tried to interfere in the gold smuggling case investigation, he said the Customs will not buckle under pressure. "We are not bothered about political parties. You may be powerful and influential, but you are not above law. No constitutional position grants you immunity from the law of the land. On our part, the Customs department has taken action irrespective of consequences. For us, national interest and national security are our primary concern. So there is no question whether a political party is involved in a case. The law does not discriminate between an ordinary offender and an influential offender," he said.
Sumit Kumar said that political parties have the responsibility to ensure the smooth functioning of the Customs department as it involves national security. "They have no business in interfering with investigations as we don't interfere in politics. Here the constitutional authorities conducted press conferences and raised some allegations. They formed a commission of inquiry against us. Tomorrow I can also appoint a commission of inquiry against them. This is nonsense. This has never happened," he said.
Denying the allegations raised by CPM leaders that the Union government was using the Customs as a tool against Kerala, he said the state government has been posing hurdles to the investigation. "We have nothing to do with politics. Governments will come and go, but we are not concerned about politics and people. The allegations against us are nonsense. They launched contempt of court proceedings against me. They moved a privilege motion against me in the Assembly. What happened to these cases? They lodged an FIR against the Enforcement Directorate and the Kerala High Court quashed it. All the steps taken against us have failed," he said.
Regarding the alleged phone call from the Kerala CM's office to release the diplomatic baggage, he replied that no power on earth can influence Sumit Kumar. "Was the bag released? There is no power on earth that can influence Sumit Kumar. We will take action if anyone inside or outside the department works against the law. I have suspended and dismissed many officers who were found to be involved in illegal activities. When it comes to national security, there is zero tolerance," he said.
Sumit Kumar said the Kerala police failed to act on incidents of attacks on Customs and DRI officials. "That is not a mere allegation but a fact. We have lodged FIRs regarding attacks on our persons and DRI officers. There was an attempt on me in March this year. I may be going but my team is here. I am sure there are extremely good police officers in Kerala. But institutionally what they have delivered is up to them to explain," he said. Sumit Kumar has been transferred to the Bhiwandi GST and Central Excise unit in Mumbai.