Thiruvananthapuram: The sensational case of gold smuggling through the diplomatic channel has taken another curious turn. Now in a recent development, the UAE consulate's admin attache has left the country.
The UAE official was on the radar of the investigators, who have been suspicious of the role of the man and had approached the external affairs ministry with a request to quiz him.
The official first left Thiruvananthapuram for Delhi and probably took a flight from the capital to be safely back in his country. He was officiating as the consul general, who was 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 claimed to the customs that he had only asked for food items in the packet, trying to wash his hands off.
In another important development, M Sivasankaran, the former principal secretary to the chief minister and the IT secretary, was suspended from service after a committee comprising the chief secretary and additional chief secretary reported that he was guilty of breach of service rules and 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.
However, with embarrassing details emerging from his interrogation by the customs, which lasted nine hours through the early morning of Monday-Tuesday, it was impossible for the chief minister to continue to shield his trusted man. This 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.
Another minister who is facing criticism is V Muraleedharan, Union minister of state for external affairs. He allegedly organised the safe passage to the consulate officials, for which the youth wing of the ruling CPI-M has demanded a probe against the minister.
Muraleedharan had earlier found himself in controversy when he described the contraband packet as personal cargo sent by an individual to another individual. He clarified that it was not diplomatic cargo which is in line with a position taken by the UAE government, although it was widely perceived to be smuggling through the diplomatic channel.