The Kerala government may be peeved with Central agencies for “overreaching their mandate so as to destabilise” it, but that has not stopped the Customs Department from serving a notice on Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel, summoning him for interrogation in Kochi on November 9.
The Customs (Preventive) wing, which unearthed the gold smuggling using diplomatic channel in Thiruvananthapuram in July this year, has also been verifying details pertaining to the import, in 2017 and 2020 respectively, of some 18 tonnes of palm dates and 4.5 tonnes of the Koran by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
In September, the agency had named Mr. Jaleel as a ‘person of interest’ in the cases pertaining to customs duty evasion and alleged FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) violation.
While Mr. Jaleel had earlier been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency in connection with this, the Customs was verifying documents, including those obtained from the State Protocol Officer, pertaining to the imports.
The agency had maintained that duty exemption provided to the diplomatic mission was conditional and since the imported items were subsequently diverted with the support of the State agencies, it amounted to a violation of the conditions.
Mr. Jaleel and the government had maintained that there was no illegality in the way the State handled these imports.
“It was part of a goodwill gesture by the consulate and the State only facilitated the same,” they had said.