Kochi: The UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram was in the spotlight as soon as the Customs busted a major gold smuggling bid last year. The statements given to the probe team by the accused, who have been arrested in the case, and also by the witnesses suggest that its former Consul General Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi had a role in the operations of the racket; hence his questioning is indispensable. However, the investigations are not making much headway as the Indian agencies are yet to get hold of him after he had left the country.
Egyptian national Khalid Ali Shoukri, the former head of the finance section at the Consulate, had acted only on Jamal's instructions, according to the information received by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Khalid has been arraigned as an accused in the dollar smuggling case by the Customs.
Jamal's moves in Kerala came under a cloud after a former woman official of the Consulate disclosed to the NIA some critical information about his activities.
People from Morocco, Egypt and the UAE had discreetly visited Jamal Hussain, as per her statements. He stayed at a bungalow in Kowdiar, near the Raj Nivas, in the state capital on a monthly rent of Rs 3 lakh. The accommodation bills were paid from a special account of the Consulate. Instead of hotels, several overseas visitors who called on him used to stay in the Consul General's bungalow. He used to avoid the gunman and driver, who were Indian nationals, on these days, and drive the Consulate's vehicle himself.
The former consular employee's statements raise suspicion about the intent of such trips. He used to drive mostly to Kochi on his own, as per the statements received by the NIA.
It was to Jamal's bungalow that Khalid went with a bag of US dollars. This money was allegedly handed over by Unitac owner Santhosh Eapen on the instructions of Swapna Suresh. It is suspected that this money was kickback received over the Life Mission deal for which a UAE agency had provided funds after Swapna intervened.
It is also alleged black money of certain prominent political leaders in the state was smuggled abroad via three top officials of the UAE Consulate, according to the Customs. Swapna, a former consular employee, had made this claim during interrogation.
The three named by her are Jamal, Khalid and Rashid Khamis Al Sheimeili, the former admin attache at the consulate.
Khalid had converted large sums of Indian Rupee to Dollars before smuggling them abroad, Swapna, who is an accused in the gold smuggling case, had told the interrogators.
The way forward for the NIA
Jamal is now likely based in his home country. As the UAE is completely cooperating with the probe, the NIA won't face any issues in procuring his statements with the help of the Interpol and the Dubai Police.
The importance of taking Jamal's statements and the gravity of the case could be conveyed to the UAE administration through its ambassador in India via the Union Home and External Affairs ministries.
The UAE has already informed India that Khalid, accused in the dollar smuggling case, does not have diplomatic immunity. However, the UAE's stance over attache Rashid and Jamal is not clear.
Based on the case details handed over by India, the Dubai Police have already questioned both of them in detail. But the NIA likely wants him at its disposal for the effective conclusion of the probe.