Kerala gold smuggling case: Swapna shifts blame on UAE consulate general, denies role in gold smuggling

KOCHI: Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, has claimed that she contacted the Customs department on behalf of Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili, who is presently in charge of the Consulate General of the UAE, and she was in no way connected with the case.

In the bail petition submitted before the Kerala High Court, Swapna said she was still serving with the Consulate General Office of United Arab Emirates on a ‘work on request’ basis, though she resigned from the post of executive secretary in 2019.

“Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili, who is the present acting charge of the Consulate General of UAE directed me to check with the Customs regarding the delay in delivery of his consignment that reached on June 30. Thereafter I contacted the Asst Commissioner of Customs with regard to the release of the diplomatic baggage,” she said in the bail application.

Swapna claimed she was falsely implicated in the case. Besides, she had no criminal antecedents. Therefore, she pleaded that the Assistant Commissioner of Customs be directed to release her on bail in the event of her arrest. She did not visit the customs office or the cargo complex to get the baggage released.​

According to Swapna, she contacted the Assistant Commissioner of Customs over phone as part of her official work. “I have no connection or involvement in the smuggling of gold,” she said in the petition.

The petition stated that  the Consulate General directed Swapna to contact the Customs officer at cargo complex, Thiruvananthapuram to enquire about the diplomatic baggage and she contacted the Customs officer as part of her official duty. She also called the Assistant Commissioner of Customs and verified the status of the diplomatic cargo.

On July 1 evening, the Consulate General of UAE received an email from the office of the Assistant Commissioner Customs, Air Cargo Complex, Thiruvananthapuram requesting to present himself at 11 am on July 3. Thereafter the Consulate General of UAE appeared before the officer and verified the cargo and admitted before the Customs authority that the cargo belonged to him.

She was also directed to prepare a letter seeking to re-export the cargo to UAE. However, the customs again issued a notice to open the cargo with a request to appear on July 5. One of the senior officers from the office of the High Commissioner in Delhi along with the Consulate General appeared and the diplomatic cargo was opened and 30 kg of gold was found concealed inside.

Since the office of the Consulate General of UAE claimed only the food items in the cargo, the gold was seized. Later, the Customs department raided the residence of Public Relations Officer Sarith and took him into custody on July 5.

Who is Swapna Prabha Suresh?

She had joined the Consulate General Office of United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the Executive Secretary in 2016 and resigned from the job in September 2019. Later she joined Price Waterhouse Coopers Ltd (PWC) which is dealing with the Space Park Project under the IT department of the Kerala government.

Swapna claims that the Consul General of UAE Thiruvananthapuram sought her assistance in various administrative matters as she was experienced in consulate work. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in India, the present Consul General had flown back to the UAE in April 2020.

Accordingly, Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili was appointed as acting charge of the Consulate General and became the
admin attached to the office of the Consulate General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram. Swapna said she continued serving the Consulate on a ‘work on request’ basis during this period.

Appreciation for commitment to work

Swapna also produced the certificate issued by the Consulate General appreciating her performance before the Kerala High Court. When she resigned from the post of the secretary at the office of Consulate General of UAE, consul general Jamal Husein Al Zaabi had issued a certificate recognising her commemorable service and stated in the appraisal that she was the best employee among the 50 staff members of the Consulate.

She had also handled the visit of the ruler of Sharjah and other royal delegations during their visit to Kerala, which was also mentioned by Al Zaabi in his letter issued in 2019.

Family of Swapna

The petition stated that her family consists of her husband and two children. Her daughter is a second-year degree student and son a third standard student.

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