Smuggling US currency: Customs seeks issual of non-bailable warrant against ex-UAE consulate employee

Smuggling US currency: Customs seeks issual of non-bailable warrant against ex-UAE consulate employee
The call center scam defrauded thousands of US residents of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Kochi: The Customs on Tuesday sought issuance of non-bailable warrant against a former employee of the UAE consulate for alleged smuggling of US currency with the help of two accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, with the agency filing a case based on their statement.

Since the respondent was out of the country, he needs to be extradited for which the NBW was required, the Customs (Preventive) said in its report filed before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences), Ernakulam.

The Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, which is probing the Kerala gold smuggling case, claimed in its report submitted under sections 156 and 157 of the CrPC that ex- finance head of UAE consulate, Thiruvananthapuram, Khaled Mohamed Ali Shoukri had taken out USD 1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) concealed in his handbag. Shoukri, an Egyptian national, was accompanied by prime accused in Kerala gold smuggling case Swapna Suresh and P S Sarith till Oman during his travel from Thiruvananthapuram international airport by Oman Airways on August 7, 2019. The Customs said the issue came to light during the course of investigation in the case of seizure of 30 kg gold through Air Cargo Complex, Thiruvananthapuram on July 5. Swapna, in her voluntary statement given under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962, stated and admitted she and Sarith had accompanied Shoukri from Thiruvananthapuram to Muscat on August 7, 2019, the agency said in its report.

The main purpose of their trip to Dubai via Oman was to facilitate Shoukri in the hassle-free clearance at Thiruvananthapuram airport to cross the security check, it alleged. During custodial interrogation, Swapna, a former employee of the UAE consulate, claimed she had seen many times Khaled himself screening his handbags in the X-Ray machine available at the consulate Office in Thiruvananthapuram, in Sarith's presence, to ensure the currency concealment would not be detected during security check by the CISF at the international airport in the city, the agency said. Based on statements of the two, customs registered a case and launched an investigation. The agency submitted Shoukri may be added as an accused in the case and the report may be accepted.

"Since the respondent is out of India, his presence cannot be secured by the Department under the provisions of the Customs Act. Therefore he needs to be extradited.

For this purpose the court having jurisdiction of the case has to issue a non-bailable warrant against the said respondent, so that the issue can be taken up through appropriate authorities as mandated under bilateral conventions," the agency said in the report.

It said a detailed investigation is warranted to identify as to whether more people are involved in the smuggling of huge quantities of foreign currency out of India, which is a grave threat to the economy and national security.

As the currency value exceeds Rs 1 crore, the alleged offence committed by the Egyptian national is non-bailable as per provisions of the Customs Act, the agency contended.

(With PTI inputs)

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