The Customs last week sought details of duty exemption certificates granted by the State Protocol Officer to the UAE Consulate during 2019-20

The Kerala government had not granted immunity to the UAE Consulate to import freight without Customs examination or assessment via air and seaports in the State during the 2019-20 period, according to a report given by the State Protocol Officer (SPO) to the Customs Department.

Also read: Kerala gold smuggling case: State government braces for a season of protests

Last week, the Customs sought details of duty exemption certificates granted by the SPO to the UAE Consulate during the period as part of its investigation into the smuggling of gold in bulk via air cargo consignments addressed to the diplomatic mission here.

The Customs were examining the declarations provided by the UAE Consulate to inspectors at the Air Cargo Complex here.

They were investigating how P.S. Sarith and Swapna Suresh, purportedly operating at the behest of certain consulate officials, could repeatedly obtain immunity from Customs examination of air cargo consignments they had imported in the name of the diplomatic mission.

In a bid to find whether any entity had abetted the smuggling operation, the Customs investigators have also asked the details of the Consulate officials or their nominees who might have sought duty exemption certificates from the State government.

Also read: ED questions Sivasankar in gold smuggling case

The Customs had also sought the specimen signatures of UAE diplomats who worked in the Consulate during the period.

The SPO, Kerala, has told the Customs department that neither has the Consulate sought such a duty exemption from the government during the said period.

Fake documents

An official said the accused could have possibly submitted fake documents for duty exemption at the Customs check-post here given the declaration of the Kerala government.

Also read: Kerala gold smuggling case: NIA court denies bail to Swapna Suresh, but finds no terror angle

(Any “foreign representation” in the country could import goods below the value of ₹20 lakh without the prior approval of the “Protocol Special Section” of the Union Minister of External Affairs.

However, the Embassy would have to seek the sanction of State Protocol Officer for import of goods below the estimated value of ₹20 lakhs)

The Customs had issued the notice to the Kerala government under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962. It had requested the State Protocol Officer to provide the documents by post or in person before August 20.

The Customs had also warned that non-compliance with the direction would entail prosecution under Sections 193 and 198 of the Indian Penal Code. It had addressed the notice to the Joint Secretary, General Administration Department.

Other than the Customs, the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency were probing the money laundering and national security implications of the case, respectively.

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