Kerala gold smuggling case: Customs register two cases against government

South India
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The cases have been registered for allegedly accepting consignments of Quran and 18,000 kg of dates imported by the UAE consulate officials for their personal use through diplomatic channels.

The gold smuggling case rocking Kerala for the past one month has landed the Left Democratic Front government headed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Viajayan in trouble, with the Customs Department filing two cases against the government.

The cases have been registered for allegedly accepting consignments of Quran and 18,000 kg of dates imported by the UAE consulate officials for their personal use through diplomatic channels. The Customs said that "some powerful persons" in the state government had accepted those items as "gifts for distribution at certain places" and will have to be questioned for clarification in the case

It added that the state government accepted those items for personal use by availing tax exemption certificate.

"There were clear cases of violation of Customs Act, Money Laundering Act, and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) as the state government accepted those items brought by the diplomats for their personal use by availing tax exemption certificate," an official statement read.

The state government officials very well know that they were forbidden from taking anything from the foreign government. State Protocol Department under General Administration had granted tax exemption to the UAE consulate to import 18,000 kgs of dates in 2017 and over 4,000 kg baggage containing Quran in 2020 for the personal use of the officials of UAE," it added.

Chief Minister’s former Principal Secretary to Shivshankar was questioned by Customs, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate several times in connection with the gold smuggling case, which came to light following the seizure of gold smuggled through diplomatic channels.

The Customs department is also gearing up to question state’s Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel. He has already been questioned the NIA and ED. He is facing action for distributing copies of Quran illegally. Some 8,000 religious texts were brought to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in 250 boxes on 4 March this year. The protocol officer was not informed about the import.

The investigating agencies suspect involvement of those accused in the gold smuggling case in connection with the import of Quran. These had come in 250 boxes with each box containing 32 religious texts. Jaleel took possession of 32 boxes containing these religious texts.

In addition, about 1.7 tonnes of dates were also imported through diplomatic channels and distributed. Diplomats can import food items for their consumption through diplomatic baggage. But they cannot distribute them.

The UAE Consulate is also facing problem with regard to the construction of houses under the Life Mission Housing project of the government. About 25 percent of Rs.20 crore granted by Red Crescent has gone as commission. A key accused in the gold smuggling case has been a major beneficiary of the commission.

Image Credit: Janam TV

 

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