With more than 550 kg of gold had been seized at various places in the state, Kerala set a national record in gold smuggling last year
Customs officials on Sunday seized over 30 kg of gold that smuggled into Kerala in “diplomatic baggage”. The consignment worth Rs 15 crore, addressed UAE consular general, was sent by air cargo at the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram. It is suspected that the gold smugglers were misusing the diplomatic immunity.
According to the latest reports, the Customs personnel are now questioning a former PRO of the UAE consulate in connection with the incident.
“Some ‘scamsters’ suspected to be members of a “certain syndicate” had been nabbed and investigations were on while the person in whose name the consignment was sent was cooperating in the probe,” a news agency quoted Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar as saying.
“A consignment of over 30 kg of gold was seized. We suspect the scamsters have used the name of the consignee with diplomatic immunity. It is understood the syndicate operating behind this has filed the papers for the consignment in the name of a person with diplomatic immunity,” he said.
“We are also investigating some scamsters who have seemed to have misused the name of this person. We have nabbed some of them and an investigation is on,” he said.
The Customs officials are now investigating whether such a method had been used for smuggling in the past. The UAE consulate in Kerala is situated at Manacaud, Thiruvananthapuram. The officials refused to divulge more details.
Kerala No 1 in Gold Smuggling
With more than 550 kg of gold had been seized at various places in the state, Kerala set a national record in gold smuggling last year. The gold smuggling has been valuable funding to Islamic terror groups and political parties in the state for decades.“Kerala tops in the country in terms of gold seizure. During the last financial year, 550 kg gold was seized from four airports of the state. At least half of this quantity is from Kozhikode international airport. True, we are hit badly due to Covid-19 but we will not lower our guard come what may,” says Sumit Kumar, Customs Commissioner in-charge of Kerala and Lakshadweep region.
Smuggling on the rise during Covid-19
Amid Covid-19 pandemic, smuggling rackets are luring desperate NRIs into gold smuggling. Most of these gold smuggling rackets have direct or indirect links to radical Islamic outfits.
According to reports, since June, more than 5.9 kg of gold has been seized from nine people at Kozhikode airport, one of the largest gold smuggling hubs in Kerala. Customs officers say the racketeers must have smuggled more than the seized gold to ensure profit. But the Customs are bent on preventing smuggling via the airport.
“Some people think the Covid-19 situation would save them from Customs checks. But neither the crisis situation nor PPE kits will save them. We will screen all passengers and ask them to remove and dispose of PPE kits before Customs checks. But we won’t be able to check Covid-19 patients. After antibody testing, patients will be taken to hospitals directly,” the New Indian Express quoted an officer as saying.
Meanwhile, Congress-run Jaihind TV alleged that the Chief Minister’s office intervened in the case and put pressure on the officials to release the baggage that contained smuggled gold.