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Former consulate employee grilled by Customs over gold smuggling bid in Kerala


Kochi : A former employee of the consulate of a foreign country in Kerala was being questioned by the Customs in connection with the seizure of over 30 kg gold from a "diplomatic baggage" at an airport in Kerala in a suspected smuggling attempt by a syndicate using the immunity, official sources said.

 A day after Customs sleuths seized over Rs 15 crore worth gold that landed in a diplomatic baggage by air cargo at Thiruvananthapuram international airport, a senior customs official said they were also investigating how unauthorised people can be associated with the clearance of the cargo.

 The investigation team was questioning the former employee and efforts were on to make a woman, also a former staff of the consulate, to join the probe, the official said. On Sunday, the Customs had said it suspected a smuggling syndicate had misused the name of a person who enjoys diplomatic immunity.

On Monday, a senior customs official, who spoke to PTI on condition of anonymity, said the investigation would also look into possible role of any employee of the consulate and made it clear none had been taken into custody. "Right now we are investigating how can unauthorised people be associated with official clearance of the diplomatic cargo. How come former employees of the consulate handled the consignment, who sent it from outside and whom it was meant to be given to", the official said.

Noting that suspected smuggling of gold worth over Rs 15 crore was not by "a small chain", the official said it was very clear that the cover of diplomatic consignment was being used for the purpose. "Even then they had done deep concealment. Without information no way we could have made the seizure", the official said. Airport sources had said the gold was concealed in a baggage consisting of bathroom equipment.

After the seizure on Sunday, Customs Commissioner (Preventive) Sumit Kumar had said: "We suspect scamsters have used the name of the consignee with diplomatic is understood the syndicate operating behind this has filed the papers for the consignment in the name of a person with diplomatic immunity." The Customs Commissioner had said that as the consignment was addressed to the person with diplomatic immunity, "we had certain questions and as per normal protocol, we requested them to help us and they were kind enough to help us."


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