KOCHI: The Commissioner of Customs (Preventive) Kochi has ordered Rs 66.60 crore penalty to 44 persons, including prime accused Swapna Suresh and M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to the Kerala CM, in the 2020 smuggling of gold through a diplomatic channel case. Both Swapna and Sivasankar have to pay Rs 6 crore and Rs 50 lakh respectively.
Apart from the penalty, Customs Commissioner Rajendra Kumar, who recently transferred from Kochi also ordered the confiscation of bank deposits and cars of the accused persons.
In addition to Swapna, the highest penalty of Rs 6 crore each was also granted to other prime accused persons Sarith PS, Sandeep Nair, Ramees KT, former UAE consul general in Thiruvananthapuram Jamal Hussein Alzaabi, and UAE consulate administration attache Rashed Khamis Alimusaiquri Al Ashmei.
Mohammad Shafi, Saidalavi E, Samju TM, Shamsudheen, and Faisal Fareed, who funded the smuggled gold and facilitated the illegal activities, were ordered to pay Rs 2.5 crores each as a penalty.
AM Jaleel, Rabin Hameed, Abdu PT and Mohammad Anwar TM, who were involved in the smuggling of gold and transporting it to gold dealers were ordered to pay a fine of Rs two crores each. Jayashankar S, former husband of Swapna was fined Rs two crores. The accused PT Ahmedkutty and Mohammad Manzoor were ordered to Rs 1.5 crores each as a fine.
The order said that Swapna and Sarith gave voluntary statements that Sivasankar was aware of smuggling activities and he was liable for penal action.
"Sivasankar maintained a proximity with Swapna Suresh and Consul General Jamal Alzaabi. The contention that he was not aware of the gold smuggling through the diplomatic channel through Air Cargo Complex in Thiruvananthapuram does not appear to be correct and believable," the order said.
The penalty and conviction were ordered after the Customs Commissioner heard the accused persons. The Customs will now proceed to prosecute the accused persons, and procedure in this regard will be held at Ernakulam Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offence) court.
In 2020 Customs seized 30.245 grams of gold valued at Rs 14.82 crores addressed to the diplomat of UAE Thiruvananthapuram Consulate. The follow-up investigation revealed that earlier 136.828 kgs of gold worth Rs 46.49 crores were also smuggled through diplomatic channels multiple times.
Apart from Customs, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and National Investigation Agency (NIA) also conducted a probe into the smuggling incident.