Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar during his farewell interaction with media in Kochi on Saturday said there were attempts made to scuttle the probe in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case but his department did not cave in to pressure.
Kumar, who is transferred to Bhiwandi in Maharashtra said his team has done everything necessary in the major cases related to the probe. He further added that only he is leaving the state and that his team will remain in the state and continue to probe the matter.
While he did not name the Pinarayi Vijayan government or any other political party explicitly, Kumar alleged that attempts made to influence the Customs probe did not succeed. He also lashed out at the Kerala police who he claimed turned a blind eye to the complaints of attacks on central agencies.
In response to the allegations levelled by the Kerala government, Kumar said he does not report to Kerala Chief Minister and is not obligated to provide an explanation to him. “I need not report to the Chief Minister. My reporting officer is the Union Finance Minister, who has been very supportive. There is no point in putting pressure on me,” said Kumar, who presided over the much-talked-about Kerala gold smuggling case.
“Earlier, I handled the case regarding a duty-free outlet at Thiruvananthapuram airport in which many politicians were involved. I had promised my team that till I am here the outlet will remain closed. Has it opened? People may try to influence but I am not concerned,” he said.
Political parties not above the law of the land, outgoing Customs Commissioner says
When asked about his cryptic Facebook post wherein he accused a political party to interfere in the gold smuggling case, the Customs Commissioner said the department won’t yield to pressure.
“We do not care about political parties. They may be powerful or influential, but not above the law. No constitutional position grants them immunity from the law of the land. As far as we are concerned, the Customs department has taken action regardless of consequences. For us, national interest and national security are our primary concerns. So there is no question whether a political party is involved in a case. The law does not discriminate between an ordinary offender and an influential offender,” he said.
Kumar also added that it incumbent upon the political parties to ensure the smooth functioning of the Customs department as it involves matters pertaining to national security.
Commenting that political parties have no business in interfering with investigations, Kumar said, “Political parties should not interfere in what is clearly not their remit. Here the constitutional authorities conducted press conferences and raised some allegations. They formed a commission of inquiry against us. Tomorrow I can also appoint a commission of inquiry against them. This is nonsense. This has never happened,” he said.
State government in Kerala laying roadblocks in the way of investigation: Customs Commissioner
Kumar also rubbished the allegations raised by CPM leaders that the Union Government was using the Customs department as a tool against the Kerala government. He added that the state government has been laying roadblocks in the way of investigation.
“We have nothing to do with politics. Governments will come and go, but we are not concerned about politics and people. The allegations against us are nonsense. They launched contempt of court proceedings against me. They moved a privilege motion against me in the Assembly. What happened to these cases? They lodged an FIR against the Enforcement Directorate and the Kerala High Court quashed it. All the steps taken against us have failed,” he said.
Speaking about the alleged phone call from the Kerala CM’s office to release the diplomatic baggage, Kumar said there is no power on the earth that can influence him.
“Was the bag ever released? There is no power on earth that can influence Sumit Kumar. We will act against those who will try to work against the investigation, even if that means going against officers in our own department. I have suspended and dismissed many officers who were found to be involved in illegal activities. When it comes to national security, there is zero-tolerance,” he said.
Kerala Gold Scam and the alleged links to CM Pinarayi Vijayan
In July last year, the Customs officials in Kerala had nabbed a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Kerala named Sarith where he had divulged that Swapna Suresh, also a former staffer, had forged documents to misuse diplomatic privileges, to smuggle gold from UAE illegally.
On July 5, Suresh’s baggage, marked with the UAE Consulate address, was held at the airport. Swapna Suresh worked as the marketing liaison officer of Space Park under the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) that comes directly under the IT department.
The call details of the main accused, Swapna Suresh, had revealed that the accused was in regular touch with Kerala’s Higher Education minister KT Jaleel.
In a startling disclosure in October last year, Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, had revealed to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had held multiple meetings with the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2017.
In her statement to ED, she said Vijayan had also “unofficially” recommended the name of his then principal secretary M Shivasankar as the state government’s official point of contact with the UAE’s consulate. Swapna Suresh had also admitted before the probing agency that the private meetings between Vijayan and the UAE diplomats were held at CM Vijayan’s official residence in Thiruvananthapuram.
Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate had revealed that the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was aware of Swapna Suresh’s appointment under the Information Technology (IT) department. Swapna Suresh had revealed to ED saying that she knew former principal secretary of Kerala chief minister M Shivasankar very closely and also knew Chief Minister during her tenure as a secretary to the consul general.