Acted on UAE Consular Gen’s Orders: Kerala Gold Smuggling Accused
Swapna Suresh has also stated that the media is ‘spreading numerous false stories’ alleging her involvement.
Swapna Suresh, who has been absconding ever since her name cropped up in the Kerala gold smuggling case on Monday, 6 July, filed an anticipatory bail petition. While the Customs department is yet to interrogate Swapna, her bail plea seems to accuse the UAE Consulate officer for involving her in the retrieval of the consular baggage that had 30 kg gold, worth Rs 14.82 crores
In the bail petition, Swapna claimed she had no role in the crime and that she only made a phone call to the Assistant Commissioner of the Customs on the direction on the acting Consular General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, Rashed Khasmi Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia.
She has been implicated for allegedly committing offences under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962: sections 104 (6) (c) (import or export of any goods which have not been declared in accordance with the provisions of this Act and the market price of which exceeds one crore rupees) and 135 (evasion of duty or prohibitions).
Swapna Continued to Be Engaged by Consulate
Swapna is a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. She worked as the Executive Secretary from 2016 and 2019 at the Consulate and later joined as the contract staff of Price Waterhouse Coopers Ltd (PWC), a private company, for their Space Park Project under the Kerala government’s Information Technology Department. She was removed from the post on Monday soon after her alleged link to the case surfaced.
According to the anticipatory bail plea, though Swapna had resigned from the Consulate in September 2019, she had been working with the Consulate on “work on request basis”.
It must be noted that in the remand report submitted by the Customs (preventive) Commissionerate, the acting Consulate General said he relies on Sarith PS, a former staff of the UAE Consulate and the main accused in the gold smuggling case, for odd jobs and even for clearance of imported goods.
Swapna alleged that she was recently engaged as the “Secretary under work on request basis” by the Consulate for COVID-19 awareness programmes. As part of this, Rashed Khasmi Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia allegedly asked her to check with the Customs about the delay in his consignment, which had reached the Air Cargo Complex at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on 30 June.
On 1 July, as per the direction of Rashed Khasmi, she contacted the Assistant Commissioner of Customs to verify the status of consular cargo.
Notably, Swapna has stated in the bail plea that later that day, on 1 July, the Assistant Commissioner of Customs contacted the acting Consul General through an e-mail, requesting him to come to the air cargo complex on 3 July and directly verify the consular cargo.
Swapna also stated in the plea that on July 3, on the direction of the Consul General, she prepared a letter for him addressed to the Assistant Commissioner of Customs, seeking the ‘re-export’ of the cargo. This was after the Customs department found that the consular cargo, the supporting documents and the signature were not in the stipulated format of the Foreign Privileged Persons (Regulation of Customs Privileges) Rules, 1957.
Accordingly, the Bill of Entry (a legal document for importing foreign goods) for re-export was submitted. Based on the new Bill of Entry, he (Rashed Khasmi Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia) was called for issuing another notice to open the cargo along with a request to appear at the cargo complex on 5 July.
Swapna has stressed in her bail plea that her involvement in the whole incident was just to contact the Customs, that too, on the direction of the Consulate General as part of her duty as “secretary under work on request basis”.
Many former Indian diplomats had told TNM that the practice of engaging a former Consulate staff is wrong, especially if it involves official work.
‘Media Spreading False Stories’
Swapna also stated that though she does not have any involvement in the gold smuggling, the media is ‘spreading numerous false stories’ alleging her involvement, and also alleging connections to the Kerala Chief Minister’s office.
“The petitioner has (is) actually falsely implicated… the petitioner really apprehends that there is every chance to implicate her as an accused in the gold smuggling case,” stated the bail plea.
Swapna also stated that the “media trial” going on against her and her family by exhibiting her photographs is in violation of a Supreme Court decision in 2009.
It also said the Swapna is willing to cooperate with the investigation by the Customs Department, and that she is willing to comply with all conditions imposed by the High Court in granting her bail.
(The story has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)
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