KOCHI: Investigating the 2020 Thiruvananthapuram gold and dollar smuggling cases, the customs has imposed a combined penalty of Rs 1.15 crore on M Sivasankar, former principal secretary to the Chief Minister, and Rs 6.65 crore on prime accused Swapna Suresh.
The customs issued two separate orders, a 545-page order on gold smuggling and a 245-page order on dollar smuggling, and imposed separate penalties on the 44 accused persons. The total penalty amounted to Rs 66.6 crore in the gold smuggling case and Rs 4.9 crore -- for six persons, including Sivasankar and Swapna -- in the dollar smuggling case. A total of 30.245 kg of gold valued at Rs 14.82 crore was seized from the Thiruvananthapuram airport in 2020, as per the customs department.
The dollar case involves the smuggling of $190,000 by former UAE consulate employee Khaled Mohammad Ali Shoukry via the Thiruvananthapuram airport while travelling to Cairo on August 7, 2019. The dollars smuggled by Khaled, an Egyptian national, were received as commission from Unitac Builders to get the contract of the Wadakkancherry Life Mission Housing Project for the 2018 flood victims.
Unitac Builders’ MD Santhosh Eapen was ordered to pay a penalty of Rs 1 crore while Khaled has to pay Rs 1.3 crore.
The gold smuggling case order said Sivasankar planned to make investments in a private company in the UAE in association with the then UAE Consul General in Thiruvananthapuram, Jamal Hussein Alzaabi. As per the order, Sivasankar introduced Kesavadas, a promoter of Air V Labs -- a UAE-based IT company -- to Alzaabi.
The order by the Commissioner of Customs (Preventive), Rajendra Kumar, who was recently transferred from Kochi, has also asked for the confiscation of bank deposits and cars belonging to the accused persons.
Besides Swapna, the highest penalty of Rs 6 crore each has been imposed on Sarith P S, Sandeep Nair, Ramees K T, Alzaabi, and UAE consulate administration attache Rashed Khamis Alimusaiquri al Ashmei. Jayashankar S, Swapna’s ex-husband, was fined Rs 2 crore.
The customs also imposed a fine of Rs 2.5 crore each on Mohammad Shafi, Saidalavi E, Samju T M, Shamsudheen and Faisal Fareed, who “funded and facilitated the illegal activities”.
The order said Swapna and Sarith gave voluntary statements that Sivasankar was aware of the smuggling activities and was liable for penal action.
“Sivasankar maintained proximity with Swapna Suresh and Consul General Jamal Alzaabi. The contention that he was not aware of the gold smuggling through diplomatic channels via the air cargo complex in Thiruvananthapuram (airport) does not appear to be correct and believable,” said the order.
Another charge raised by the customs against Sivasankar is that he introduced Swapna to Kiran G R and Lafeer, of Middle East College, and recommended her for a job with the firm.