How the Kerala gold smuggling case unfolded | Timeline

The gold smuggling case unearthed in Trivandrum International Airport of Kerala in the first week of June spurred a political storm in the state. The name of a top bureaucrat in the CM's office and the UAE Consulate were then linked to the case in which 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.8 crore was seized by Customs officials at the Trivandrum International Airport.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijaya's former secretary M Sivasankar then proceeded on long leave after he was removed as the CM's secretary and IT secretary.

One of the accused, Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the UAE consulate, worked as a consultant in the Space Park project under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL). She was sacked after her name surfaced in connection with the smuggling case.

Pinarayi said an inquiry will be held into the complaint on the alleged fake degree certificate submitted by Swapna Suresh for securing appointment in a government project under the state IT department.

The Congress and its allies and the BJP are staging protests targeting the Left Democratic Front government and demanding chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's resignation over it.

Here is a timeline of the developments related to the case:

June 30, 2020

Customs officials at Trivandrum International Airport detain a diplomatic baggage from Dubai on suspicion of smuggling

July 1

Swapna Suresh, who was a Kerala IT department employee, calls up the assistant commissioner of Customs claiming to be the secretary of the consul general of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, demands that the baggage be released.

July 2

The Customs Department faces pressure from many places to release the baggage, but it refuses to do so. The department directs the consulate official to whom the baggage is addressed to come personally to collect it. When Customs refuses to release it, former PRO of the consulate Sarith Kumar goes to its office with a man attired in Arabic costume and threatens the officials there.

July 3

Customs gets the permission of the Centre to summon consulate officials

July 4

Customs assistant commissioner gets a letter saying the cargo must be sent back. The department issues a notice to the consul general to be present on July 5 for opening the cargo.

July 5

The Customs opens the baggage around 1pm and starts inspecting it in the presence of a senior officer from the high commissioner's office in Delhi and the consulate official whose name is on the baggage. The exercise gets over around 6pm. The department seizes the 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.8 crore found in the baggage. The consulate officials say the gold is not meant for them. Meanwhile, Swapna switches off her phone around 3:15pm and goes into hiding. The Customs Department arrests P S Sarith, the former PRO of the consulate.

July 7

Senior IAS officer M Sivasankar is removed as IT secretary and chief minister's principal secretary after it emerges he shared close ties with the accused in the gold smuggling case.

July 9

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) takes over the investigation into the case. The decision is taken by Union Home Minister Amit Shah after holding discussions with top-level officials of various central investigating agencies. An audio clip purportedly of Swapna is aired by various TV channels.

July 10


The four suspects in the case are charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

July 11

Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the case, and Sandeep Nair, the fourth accused, who were on the run, were taken into custody by NIA from Bengaluru.

Pinarayi said an inquiry will be held into the complaint on the alleged fake degree certificate submitted by Swapna Suresh for securing appointment in a government project under the state IT department.

July 12

NIA records the arrest of Swapna and Sandeep. The duo were brought to Kerala and remanded in custody, moved to COVID care centres.

July 14

Kerala Chief Minister's former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar summoned to the Customs Department's office for questioning. The investigating team had earlier reached Sivasankar's home to find more clues into the sensational gold smuggling case.

First accused in the case, P S Sarith, states Sivasankar was not part of the racket but concedes that talks on smuggling gold were held at the IAS official's flat in Thiruvananthapuram.

July 15

Arun Balachandran, removed from the post of Marketing and Operations Director at the IT Parks, an initiative of the IT Department. Arun, who was the CM’s IT Fellow, had looked out for a flat near the Kerala Secretariat for the operations of the people now accused of gold smuggling.

M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to the CM, suspended over his alleged association with gold smuggling case accused.

July 16

Rashid Al-Salami, an attache with the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, reportedly left India as a multi-agency probe into the gold smuggling case intensified. The 30 kg gold, worth Rs 14.8 crore, seized by the Indian Customs at the Trivandrum International Airport on July 5 was reportedly addressed to this consular official.

July 17

UAE Consul General's missing gunman found with slashed wrist.

NIA gets 7-day custody of P S Sarith.

Sivasankar behind Swapna Suresh's appointment at Space Park, according to a suspension order served by Chief Secretary Viswas Mehta to him.

July 19

Faizal Fareed, the third accused in the gold smuggling case arrested from Dubai in United Arab Emirates.  

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