India has issued a notice to the United Arab Emirates as part of the Customs department’s move to arraign two former senior diplomats as accused persons in a gold smuggling case.
The ministry of external affairs also handed over a pen drive having the details of the case of gold smuggling through diplomatic channels in Thiruvananthapuram to the UAE.
The UAE’s 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 gold smuggling. Both the men, who had been attached to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, later returned to the Emirates.
The MEA 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 external 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 $1,000 for 18 instances of smuggling through diplomatic channels between November 2019 and March 4, 2020. It would be crucial whether 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 kilograms of gold worth close to Rs 15 crore was seized from baggage, reportedly, addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
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Soon after the gold smuggling case broke, the three top officials in the UAE Consulate, now in the dock, left the country.
(This article was first published in onmanorama)