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UAE embassy says diplomats had no role in gold smuggling case

The UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, has told the media in Dubai that he will coordinate with officials in Kerala for the investigation into the incident.

Updated: Jul 07, 2020 19:22 IST

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Customs officials at the airport in Thiruvananthapuram seized a diplomatic bag addressed to the UAE consulate on Friday after getting a tip-off that it was being used to smuggle gold. (Bloomberg/ Representative image)

A former Indian employee of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Kerala, fired for misconduct, was allegedly behind an attempt to smuggle 30 kg of gold through a diplomatic bag and no diplomats were involved in the matter, UAE authorities have said.

Customs officials at the airport in Thiruvananthapuram seized a diplomatic bag addressed to the UAE consulate on Friday after getting a tip-off that it was being used to smuggle gold. The bag, which arrived on a chartered flight from the UAE, contained 30 kg of gold in cylindrical form hidden within some equipment.

The UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, has told the media in Dubai that he will coordinate with officials in Kerala for the investigation into the incident.

A statement issued by the UAE embassy said the mission in Thiruvananthapuram and its diplomatic role had no role in the matter. The statement said the embassy “condemns the attempted misuse of diplomatic channels by an individual engaged in smuggling activity” and “firmly rejected such acts”.



“Initial inquiries conducted by the mission revealed that a former locally hired employee of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram was responsible for this act. The employee in question was fired for misconduct long preceding this incident,” the statement said.

“At this time, it appears that this individual exploited his knowledge of the mission’s channels to engage in criminal activity,” it said.

“The UAE looks forward to fully cooperating with Indian customs authorities to thoroughly investigate this matter and urges stringent legal action against those involved,” the statement added.

Police in Kerala have named two former employees of the UAE consulate – Sarith Kumar and Swapna Suresh – as suspects in the case. Sarith was arrested after he allegedly went to the airport with a fake ID card to collect the diplomatic bag.

People familiar with developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the diplomatic bag apparently had the required authorisation, including documentation regarding its contents and a tamper-proof seal.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, authorities in the receiving state cannot open a diplomatic bag even if they have suspicions about its contents. The bag can only be opened in the presence of officials or diplomats of the sending state. This was done in the case of the UAE’s diplomatic bag after receiving the required permission, the people said.

Sarith worked as a public relations officer for the UAE consulate but was fired some months ago as “he was not doing his job”, Al Banna told Gulf News. “Unfortunately, he used different means and ways to misuse the name of the consulate,” he said.

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