UAE Consul General in Kerala resists bag search, Customs forcefully conduct search

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The customs officials at the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram conducted a search of the baggage of former United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consul General Jamal Husein Rahma Husein al Zaabi in connection with the probe into the gold smuggling case. According to reports, the UAE diplomat resisted a search of his baggage, reports The New Indian Express. After getting the necessary permission from the Union government, the officials then forcefully searched at the air complex in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday before he sent it back to the Gulf country, reports the Times of India.

Jamal Husein Rahma Husein al Zaabi is the UAE consul general in Thiruvananthapuram. He had left the country, reportedly in April 2020, months before the gold smuggling scam broke out in July last year. In his absence, Rashed Khamis Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia, Charge d’Affairs of the Consulate, was the acting Consul General. However, he, too, left the country days after the scam came to light, and PS Sarith and Swapna Suresh, former employees of the UAE Consulate in the city, were arrested. His gunmen attempted to take his own life after he left India.

Sarith had told the investigation agencies that UAE Consul General “was not aware of the illegal activities”. However, Swapna and Sarith alleged that Rashed Khamis Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia was paid 3,000 USD, allegedly the proceeds of the smuggled gold, twice in June. It is also alleged that the prime accused used the UAE Consulate General's seal and letter pad to issue fake authorisation letters for smuggling gold via the diplomatic channel.

Read: UAE Consul General knew about Kerala gold smuggling, alleges key accused Ramees

Although Jamal Husein Rahma Husein al Zaabi had left the state before the gold smuggling case broke out, some of his belongings and baggage were left at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram for sending to the UAE. The Customs demanded to examine the baggage while the consulate was about to send them to the UAE.

The Customs had earlier sought the Union government's permission to conduct the search as per protocol as the baggage belonged to an official of a foreign mission and the search was conducted after getting the clearance.

According to the report, the baggage included electronic gadgets like mobile phones and pen drives and the officials seized the mobile and some documents while releasing other items belonging to the foreign official. These would be sent for forensic examination to recover erased data on the phones.

The gadgets and documents, which were not taken by the officials, will be sent to the UAE address of the envoy soon.

The gold smuggling case, which has kicked off a political storm in the state, surfaced when PS Sarith was arrested by the Customs on July 5, 2020. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested when he was allegedly facilitating the smuggling of 30 kilograms of gold in a diplomatic bag from Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram.

M Sivasankar, former principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Customs Department for his alleged link in the case. He was released on bail on February 3.

Read: The Kerala gold smuggling case and all its controversies: An exhaustive explainer