Diplomatic gold smuggling case: India serves notice to UAE in bid to charge former diplomats

Gold.(File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi: India has issued a notice to the United Arab Emirates as part of the Customs’ move to arraign two former senior diplomats as accused persons in a gold smuggling case reported from the Kerala airport last year.

A pen drive containing the details of the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case has been handed over to the UAE by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through diplomatic channels.

The Emirates’ response would be crucial for the further progress of the case and bilateral relations between the two countries.

The notice was issued for former Consul General Major Jamal Hussein al-Zaabi and former chargé d'affaires Rashid Khamis Al-Sheimeili, who the Customs Preventive wing accused of aiding the smuggling of gold. Both the men, who had been attached to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, later returned to the Emirates.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry handed over the notice, issued under Section 124 of the Customs Act, 1962, on Friday. The ministry requested UAE for a response after contacting the former diplomats, a first-of-its-kind move against two foreign officials with diplomatic immunity.

The Customs found that the two officials had misused the diplomatic immunity granted by the Vienna Convention, and indulged in financial dealings beyond their duty. The findings, too, were handed over to the UAE.

The Customs also found that the former diplomats had held meetings with State government officials without informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite the officials facing no threat, the State had granted them X-category security with the Centre’s knowledge.

It was also found that Jamal Hussein al Zaabi was paid USD 1,000 for 18 instances of smuggling through diplomatic channels between November 2019 and March 4, 2020. It would be crucial if the UAE would hand over its citizens to India to face legal action.

The smuggling came to light on June 5, 2020, when nearly 30 kilogram of gold worth close to Rs 15 crore was seized from a baggage reportedly addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.

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