An alleged smuggler, Kerala COVID-19 patient unwilling to share all travel details

The mysterious journey undertaken by the one Kasaragod COVID-19 patient – Patient K – after landing at the Calicut International Airport from Dubai is now being unravelled. It has now come out that Patient K is a suspected gold carrier and is part of a gold smuggling racket based in Kasaragod. The contact tracing of the 47-year-old businessman of Eriyal has become a crucial task for the government simply because of the number of people Patient K has met while being infected with the coronavirus.

A top source at the Customs Department of Calicut International Airport told TNM that the man is in the list of suspected gold carriers and has a history of smuggling things to the state from Gulf countries.

“He is a frequent traveller from Dubai and has a history of smuggling cases. He is also part of a 50 member suspected gold carrier team based in Kasaragod,” said the source.

The source also added that the man also smuggled goods. “The last case registered a few months ago is the one where he smuggled in cigarettes. Since about half of our officials are on home quarantine, we need time to manually check his case history. But it is confirmed that he is part of a suspected gold carrier racket based in Kasaragod,” said the source.

The man reached the airport from Dubai on the Air India Express flight IX 344 on March 11. Since he is a person in the list of suspected gold carriers, his passport was confiscated by the Customs Department officials at the airport’s first checking counter where hand luggage is checked.

“He was asked to come to the second checking counter after taking his complete baggage. That is where the detailed checking of the Customs happens. His passport was confiscated as he was in the suspected list. Normally this is not done for the regular passengers. But this man did not report as he was told and even without taking his passport back, he escaped the airport like a regular passenger,” the source said.

Patient K, who was admitted to hospital on March 19, has come into contact with 1,400 people in Kasaragod and Kannur districts, including two Kerala MLAs, as per initial estimates. But the expected contact list is much longer, according to officials. The District Collector of Kasaragod has also said that the man was not cooperating with the officials in tracing his contacts.

According to the route map released by the Kasaragod district administration, after leaving from the Calicut airport – located in Malappuram district – on March 11, Patient K did not go home straight away. He stayed at a hotel in the district, stepped out for tea and food – and interestingly, he went back to the Calicut airport twice on the same day. He stayed at the airport from 10.30 am to 3 pm, and again from 8 pm to midnight. Later, he went back to his hotel, and took an auto to the railway station, and took a train at 3.30 am to Kasargode. On March 12, he reached Kasargode at 7.30 am and went home to Eriyal.

Now with details coming out that Patient K is allegedly part of a gold carrier racket, and that he evaded Customs checking at the airport, it is believed that he made contacts with members of the aforesaid group during the day on March 11.

About eleven officials of the Customs Department have been put under home quarantine after coming in contact with the patient.

Officials at the Customs Department also told TNM that the patient was sent a summons notice on March 14. “Usually we take a case after issuing three summons. In this case, we have so far issued only one and now he is under treatment for COVID-19. Now it is only possible to move to other procedures once he is recovered,” said an official.

*The patient’s identity is not revealed by the government for privacy reasons. Some patients choose to make a public declaration of their health status.

Read: Kerala's COVID-19 nightmare: Patient attended 3 weddings, cradle ceremony and more

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