Apprehending arrest by the Customs Department in the case related to smuggling of 30 kilogram of gold through diplomatic cargo dispatched to UAE Consulate at Thrivananthapuram, Swapna Suresh, a woman associated with the Consulate General Office, has moved the High Court of Kerala seeking anticipatory bail.
She has denied any connection or involvement with the case, which has snowballed into a political controversy due to her alleged links with M Shivashankar IAS, who was both the Principal Secretary to the office of Chief Minister and Secretary to the Department of Information Technology.
Following the controversy, Shivashankar was removed from both the posts.
As stated in the application :
Swapna Suresh, who is on the run, stated that she had worked as an Executive Secretary at the Consulate office from 2016 until her resignation in September 2019.
Even after resignation, she used to assist the Consulate on "Work-on-Request" basis as they had sought her assistance in the light of her experience.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Consulate General flew back to UAE, and an admin officer, Mr. Rashid Khamis Al Sheimelli, was acting as charge of the Consulate. On June 30, Mr. Sheimelli instructed her to check with the customs regarding the delivery of a baggage. Accordingly, she contacted the Assistant Commissioner of Customs to verify the status of delivery.
"...on 1/7/2020, as a secretary under work on request basis, the Consulate General instructed her to contact the Customs officer, cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram and as a part of discharging the official duties, the petitioner called the Assistant Commissioner of Customs and verified the status of diplomatic cargo. Thereafter on 1/7/2020 at about evening, the Consul General of UAE has received an email in the office of the Assistant Commissioner Customs, air cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram requesting the presence of his Excellency for the verification of the diplomatic cargo at 11 am on 3/7/2020. Thereafter, the Consul General of UAE went to the cargo complex and verified the cargo and admitted before the Customs authority that the said cargo belongs to him," the petition read.
Subsequently, it came to light that 30 kilograms of gold was concealed in the baggage. Since the UAE Consulate General claimed that only food items were meant to be in the baggage, Customs conducted a raid at the residence of, Sarith Kumar, who had previously worked as Public Relations Officer at the Consulate. Sarith was arrested by the Customs.
In the bail application, Suresh claims that she contacted the customs officials regarding the cargo only on the instructions of the Consulate General.
"The petitioner has no connection and no involvement with respect to the smuggled gold. The petitioner has been falsely implicated in the above customs case", she states.
Suresh has annexed the copies of email communications, stated to have been made between her and the Consulate, along with the bail application with an attempt to show that she was acting only as per the instructions from the Consulate.
She adds in the plea that she belongs to a respectable family with no criminal antecedents, and is living with her husband and two children. She also complains that a "media trial" is going on against her. The media is exhibiting her photographs in violation of right to privacy, and has sensationalized the case causing prejudice and harm to her, she states.
"The petitioner has got nothing to disclose to the investigating officer and the investigating officer has nothing to be elicited from the petitioner. Hence, the custodial interrogation of the petitioner in connection with the said incident is unnecessary", the plea states.
The petition highlights that the UAE Consulate had issued a 'Certificate of Appreciation' to Swapna, commending her services, after she resigned from the office in September 2019.
The Customs Preventive Commissionerate, Cochin, has registered a case for offences under Section 104(6)(c) and 135 of the Customs Act 1962 in relation to the illegal import of the stash of gold, which is approximately worth Rs 15 crores.
Advocate T K Rajesh Kumar, Swapna Suresh's counsel, told the media that he is not aware of her whereabouts.
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