The Customs Department on Friday registered two separate cases regarding consignments of Quran and dates allegedly received by the Kerala government from the UAE Consulate “in violation of norms”. The development comes after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned state Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel in connection with the gold smuggling case.
The department said that a duty exemption certificate can be granted by Customs only in cases of personal use, however, in this case, the state government gave the certificate and “goods were handed over to it.”
Sources in the investigation agency said, “The state government will have to answer why duty exemption was given. We will question all officials and people involved in giving clearances and exemptions.”
Jaleel was questioned by the NIA for over eight hours on Thursday. During questioning, the minister was asked why the Consulate approached him for distribution of Ramzan kits.
“Prima facie it is a customs fraud and they are trying to ascertain who is involved. The probe is looking into the alleged violation of FCRA, Customs Act (Duty Evasion),” said sources, adding that if it was for distribution then “they should have approached the Centre” for diplomatic channel.
The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinnarayi Vijayan, had earlier said that there is nothing wrong in receiving a consignment as the state government had not asked for it. He has also voiced his support for his colleague, asking him not to resign from ministry.
“Jaleel was contacted because he is the Minister for Welfare of Minorities and the Quran was brought directly through the airport. It was received by someone and then they said that they want to distribute it here,” Vijayan said.
Meanwhile, Jaleel, in his Facebook post, said, “I have conviction that I haven’t done anything wrong. I am not bothered about anyone because I have nothing to hide. I don’t have any gold or own a vehicle, then who should I be afraid of other than the almighty. My opponents may kill me, but they can never defeat me.”
His name first emerged in the controversy when accused Swapna Suresh’s call records were leaked. It showed calls between Suresh and Jaleel, who explained that he got in touch with her because the UAE Consulate wanted to distribute food packets as part of Ramzan and said that she will be co-ordinating.
Jaleel also claimed that the Consulate had given the Quran for distributing it as part of Ramzan.
The opposition, meanwhile, has alleged that there is FCRA violation and UDF Convenor and Congress MP Benny Behanan had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an enquiry into it.