Kerala gold probe: No exemption certificate issued for baggage from UAE, says protocol officer

Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By
Aug 18, 2020 08:20 PM IST

Protocol officer B Sunil Kumar’s report said no one from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate or anyone else sought exemption certificate from him.

In another twist to the Kerala gold smuggling case, the state’s protocol officer told the Customs department and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that no clearance certificate was given to any diplomatic consignment in the last one year.

The Customs had asked the protocol officer to furnish details of all diplomatic consignments that had arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport in the past year(File Photo)
The Customs had asked the protocol officer to furnish details of all diplomatic consignments that had arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport in the past year(File Photo)

Protocol officer B Sunil Kumar’s report, which was leaked to the media, said none from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate or anyone else sought exemption certificate from him.

Last week the Customs had asked the protocol officer to furnish details of all diplomatic consignments that had arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport in the past year, days after Kerala higher education minister K T Jaleel acknowledged that he had received some parcels of the Quran from the UAE consular office and that he took them to his constituency.

As a local arrangement in Kerala, exemption certificates for diplomatic bags are issued by the state protocol officer after obtaining details of the goods.

After the gold smuggling racket came to light with the seizure of 30 kg of yellow metal on July 5 from a bag that came in the name of an employee of the UAE consulate, Jaleel claimed that the consulate had donated copies of Quran and he took them to his constituency in Malappuram. He also said the consular office had arranged free food kits during Ramzan which he distributed in his constituency.

“Many questions remain unanswered. We are not ready to go by the version that the consignment carried only holy books. We need more clarifications. Who cleared this, exact contents and where these boxes were taken? We will have to question many including the minister,” said a senior official who is part of the multi-agency probe.

He also said the protocol officer’s explanation was not convincing. Jaleel, under quarantine after the Kozhikode air tragedy, said he was not worried and was ready for any probe.

“Out of 31 packets came only one packet was opened. Rest are lying idle in two religious places in my constituency. Let any agency probe, my hands are clean,” the minister said in a Facebook post criticising what he called a media trial. But former diplomats and others said no country usually exports religious books and special permission was needed for such imports.

During the investigation the Customs found that a heavy consignment had come on March 4 in 31 bags weighing more than 4,000 kg and they were taken to Malappuram. Jaleel later said he took these packets to his constituency. The Opposition Congress and BJP alleged that some consignments carried gold and Jaleel was aware of the smuggling activity.

The minister acknowledged that he took holy books to his constituency a week after Customs questioned employees and a driver of the C-Apt (Kerala Centre for Advanced Printing and Training), a government body under Jaleel’s ministry

Jaleel came under a cloud after his name figured prominently in the call list of Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the gold smuggling racket.

Get Latest India News along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, September 22, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals