Gold contraband case weakens; UAE attache 'slips out'

The sensational case of gold smuggling through the diplomatic channel has taken another curious turn, with the attache in the UAE consulate in whose name the contraband parcel had been addressed leaving the country in a jiffy.

The official was on the radar of the investigators, who had been suspicious of his role and had approached the external affairs ministry with a request to quiz him. He first left Thiruvananthapuram for Delhi and probably took a flight from the capital to be his country. He was officiating as the consul general, who is already out of India.

The other suspects in the case had made a request to the court that the attache must be interrogated for his role in the case. Swapna Suresh, one of the key suspects, had made 117 calls to the attache in connection with the release of the parcel from the customs. The woman had also called the consul general.

A lawyer, who had been in touch with the suspects before they escaped to Bengaluru, claimed that the attache had threatened to implicate the ‘madam’ if her accomplice Sarith failed to turn up at the customs office to collect the packet. The official told the customs that he had only asked for food items in the packet, trying to wash his hands off the matter.

In another important development, M Sivasankaran, the former principal secretary to the chief minister and the IT secretary, has been suspended from service, after a committee comprising the chief secretary and an additional secretary reported that he was guilty of failure to exercise caution in his relations with the suspects.

He was earlier removed from the two positions after media reports emerged that he had been a regular visitor to the house of Swapna Suresh and had created a scene there several times, prompting the residential association officials to complain to the police.

Although he was relieved of his responsibilities, first in the chief minister’s office and later in the IT department, he continued to be in service, for which the chief minister had faced a lot of flak. Pinarayi Vijayan had taken the position that there were not enough grounds to suspend the official, who was widely seen as the conscience keeper of the chief minister and the most powerful man in his office.

But with embarrassing details emerging from his interrogation by the customs, which lasted nine hours through early morning of Monday-Tuesday, it was impossible for the chief minister to continue to shield his trusted man, which prompted the chief minister to announce the formation of the committee to examine the issue.

Meanwhile, higher education minister K T Jaleel is in the dock for his interactions with Swapna Suresh and Sarith as well as the UAE consul general, which apparently related to the distribution of food packets during Ramzan. The external affairs ministry has taken a serious view of the protocol violation by both the consulate officials as well as the minister and his office for the unwarranted interaction.

The consulate or any other diplomatic mission of a foreign country is supposed to route all such requests to the external affairs ministry.

Also facing criticism is V Muraleedharan, Union minister of state for external affairs, for allegedly organising safe passage to the consulate officials, for which the youth wing of the ruling CPI-M has demanded a probe against the minister.

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