India’s southern state of Kerala has asked the federal government to order a comprehensive probe into the smuggling of 30 kilograms of gold concealed in diplomatic bags.
Customs arrested a man, who claimed himself to be a former employee of the UAE consulate in Kerala, in connection with the case.
The man was arrested following his interrogation in connection with the seizure of gold from Thiruvananthapuram international airport on 5 July.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, State Chief Pinarayi Vijayan said: “The case has serious implications as this undermines the economy of the Nation. In fact, it has more than one angle warranting a thorough investigation.”
Wrote to hon'ble @PMOIndia Shri. Narendra Modi ji about the Trivandrum airport gold seizure case. We have requested for an effective and coordinated investigation into this incident by central agencies. Assured that the State Govt will provide all necessary assistance & support. pic.twitter.com/VQsr8abfSC— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) July 8, 2020
The communication comes in the wake of reports that the Prime Minister’s office was not happy with the handling of the case as it involves diplomatic relations with the UAE.
Senior Congress leader, Ramesh Chennithala, had demanded a probe into the incident, and alleged that a "criminal gang" was operating in Vijayan's office.
The state government on 7 July, fired M. Sivasankar, Principal Secretary to Vijayan, for his alleged complicity in the case. Vijayan has strenuously denied that the state government has anything to do with the smuggling racket.
Customs personnel say that they are looking for a woman suspected of being a key player in the racket. The woman was apparently employed in the state government's information technology department, but was removed from her post immediately after her name emerged in connection with the case.
UAE envoy to New Delhi Ahmed Al Banna has maintained that his country’s diplomats have no role in the case and would willingly coordinate with Kerala in any investigation into the incident.
A diplomatic bag is used for transmission of official documents and has legal protection and immunity from search or seizure in international law. But in this case, the search was carried out with the permission of the UAE authorities on the basis of definite information that it was being used for smuggling.