Gold smuggling: Kerala chief secy writes to Centre on protocol officer’s ‘harassment’

In letter to Centre, Kerala Chief Secretary demands action against custom officers who allegedly threatened Assistant Protocol Officer MS Harikrishnan of dire consequences if he didn’t answer questions related to the case

It was found that the prime accused in the case - Swapna Suresh, Sandip Nair and Sarith - had smuggled gold through diplomatic channels 21 times since 2019 November. Photo: PTI

The Kerala government has written to the Centre, demanding inquiry and action against customs officers who allegedly threatened and forced a state government official to depose before it in connection with the gold smuggling case.

Kerala Chief Secretary Viswash Mehta in the letter to the Centre on January 11, detailed the alleged ill-treatment meted out to Assistant Protocol Officer MS Harikrishnan when he deposed before customs officials in Kochi on January 5.

The same was informed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan while responding to a notice by Varkala MLA V Joy in the Assembly on Thursday (January 21).

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According to the chief minister, Harikrishnan after the completion of his interrogation by the customs on January 5, submitted a report to the chief secretary, complaining that he was harshly treated by the investigating officers and ‘forced to give statement as they prescribed’.

He alleged that custom officers threatened him that ‘he would have to face bare consequences if he did not cooperate.’

It is the duty of the protocol officer to act on behalf of the government in matters related to the UAE Consulate. The protocol officer is responsible for the formal communication between the government and the consulate.

Harikrishnan was summoned in connection to the case where bags of gold were smuggled to India through diplomatic channels. It was found that the prime accused in the case – Swapna Suresh, Sandip Nair and Sarith – had smuggled gold through diplomatic channels 21 times since 2019 November.

The chief secretary’s letter to the Centre named the officer who allegedly threatened and misbehaved with the protocol officer.

Expressing concern that such ill-treatment would shatter the morale of state government officials, the letter demanded the Centre to take steps to ensure that such “inappropriate” and “unwarranted” acts are not repeated by investigating officers in the future.

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