Swapna Suresh
File photo of Swapna Suresh, former consulate employee and state IT department consultant who has emerged as the key suspect in the gold smuggling case, in Kerala. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: The UAE Embassy in New Delhi has launched an investigation to find out who had sent a cargo containing gold and addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, it was announced on Tuesday.

A statement from the embassy confirmed that an investigation was under way and stressed that the culprits “who not only committed a major crime but also sought to tarnish the reputation of the UAE mission in India, will not be spared".

“We remain committed to cooperating with Indian authorities in getting to the root of the crime,” added the statement from the embassy.

A former public relations officer at the UAE Consulate in Kerala has been taken into custody.

He was held by officers investigating the case in which around 30kg of gold worth Dh7.4 million was seized after being smuggled in diplomatic baggage that arrived at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport on Sunday.

The accused, named by the media as Sarith, has confessed to the crime, reports said.

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He has reportedly confessed that he had received parcels addressed to the consulate a couple of times in the past as well, even after he had lost his job at the UAE mission.

He confessed that he was offered a commission of Rs1.5 million (around Dh74,000) and also named another former female employee at the mission as his accomplice, reports said. The woman, identified as Swapna Suresh, had apparently worked for a division of the state government’s IT department from where she had been terminated.

The gold was concealed among cleaning equipment in cylindrical form inside pipes, faucets and an air-compressor and is said to be the largest haul from a Kerala airport.

The accused was sent to Kochi for further investigation and a hunt is on to arrest Suresh, who is said to be the mastermind behind the smuggling attempt, and others involved in the crime.

When contacted, the UAE Ambassador to India, Dr Ahmad Abdul Rahman Al Banna, told Gulf News that the accused had been terminated by the consulate some months ago.

“We fired him because he was not doing his job,” Dr Al Banna said on Monday afternoon.

“Unfortunately, he used different means and ways to misuse the name of the consulate,” he said.

However, Al Banna said he did not know about the reported involvement of a woman in the case.

The smuggled gold weighed over 30-kg
The smuggled gold weighed over 30kg.

Mission’s name to be cleared

The envoy expressed his faith in the Indian judicial system and hoped that the name of the UAE mission would be cleared in the case.

“We trust the Indian authorities and have full faith in their investigation process. We know they are capable and will do the best in investigating the case and they will release the name of our consulate from any misconduct.”

Earlier, on Sunday night, the UAE Embassy in New Delhi had released a statement in which it said a former employee was found to be behind the case, according to preliminary investigations.

“Initial inquiries conducted by the mission revealed that a former locally-hired employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram was responsible for this act,” the mission stated.

“The employee in question was fired for misconduct long preceding this incident. At this time, it appears that this individual exploited his knowledge of the mission’s channels to engage in criminal activity,” it explained.

The Embassy said it utterly condemns the attempted misuse of diplomatic channels by an individual engaged in smuggling activity.

It stated: “The Embassy firmly rejected such acts and unequivocally affirms that the mission and its diplomatic staff had no role in this matter,”

“The UAE looks forward to fully cooperating with Indian customs authorities to thoroughly investigate this matter and urges stringent legal action against those involved,” the statement added.