Kerala gold smuggling case: After outrage, transfer of customs officials deferred for now

After the issue triggered a controversy, the Customs department made it clear that it was a routine transfer and it was deferred for the time being.
Kerala gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair (both in the middle) after they were arrested by the National Investigation Agency in Bengaluru earlier.(PTI PHOTO.)
Kerala gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair (both in the middle) after they were arrested by the National Investigation Agency in Bengaluru earlier.(PTI PHOTO.)
Updated on Jul 23, 2020 05:09 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | ByHT Correspondent | Edited by Sohini Sarkar

Following the outrage over the transfer of key customs officials who are investigating the Kerala gold smuggling case, the order was withdrawn on Thursday. The Union Home Ministry has expressed serious reservations over the issue saying such a controversy should have been avoided when the investigation was continuing on the right track, a senior official familiar with the development said.

The sudden transfer order of six superintendents and two inspectors attached with the Kochi unit of the Customs who are part of the ongoing investigation was issued by Mohammad Yousaf, Commissioner of Customs, late on Wednesday. After the issue triggered a controversy, the Customs department made it clear that it was a routine transfer and it was deferred for the time being.

ALSO READ | Kerala gold smuggling case: NIA custody of accused extended

“There are enough pressures as the investigation is progressing. The transfer drama can be part of it. It seems many who are part of the syndicate are rattled,” said a senior official, who did not want to be identified. He said the multi-agency probe is moving in the right direction.

The gold smuggling case came to light on July 5, when P S Sarith, a former employee of the UAE consulate in the state capital, was arrested when he came to receive a consignment in the name of an official of the consulate. Later, 30 kg gold was retrieved from the consignment. Five days later, Swapna Suresh, a senior IT official and her friend Sandip Nair were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru.

The Enforcement Directorate has formally arrested three key accused, Sarith, Suresh and K T Ramees, another accomplice. The ED had registered a case against them under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the NIA court had earlier allowed it to question the accused. Opposition Congress and BJP said since the transfers were deferred they will not comment on the issue.

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