Kerala Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel has been served notice by the Customs Department asking him to appear for interrogation before its Kochi office on Monday. Customs is questioning Jaleel after NIA and ED in connection with the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case. Jaleel had been questioned for several hours by the National Investigation Agency and Enforce Department in the past in connection with the gold smuggling case and alleged distribution of the Holy Quran received through the diplomatic route, allegedly on his directions. Religious texts weighing a total of 4,478 Kg were brought to the state as Diplomatic Parcel and were distributed in Malappuram in Kerala. The Customs found this out and discovered that it was a violation of protocol as distribution of items through Diplomatic Parcel is illegal. The department has also filed two other cases for alleged evasion of duty and violations of the Foreign (Contribution) Regulations Act, FCRA, related to consignments of dates and Qurans at the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Jaleel was under the scanner after he allegedly claimed that the consignments brought to Thiruvananthapuram during Ramzan month contained holy Quran for distribution in his constituency. After the Customs notice, Jaleel said that he would appear before the officials and explain to them what all had transpired. The interrogation is in connection with the incident of distributing religious texts and the Customs has registered a separate case on this and the investigation is progressing.
The Customs unearthed the gold smuggling case when PS Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested on July 5 while he was allegedly facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to the state capital from Dubai. The name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the Consulate and later employed with the IT department, too surfaced in the case. Later, her links with the now-suspended and arrested IAS Officer M Sivasankar, then posted as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and also the IT secretary, also came to light. The call records of Jaleel and Swapna had revealed that they were in touch in the past. Earlier, the minister had admitted that a consignment containing the Holy Quran had been received from the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, which a top Customs official had referred to as ‘prima facie violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act’. Officials had said. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also denied allegations linking the state government to these cases in any way. Mr Jaleel’s questioning, however, led to demands for his resignation by Opposition parties.