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Kerala gold seizure | Diplomatic baggage to come under the scanner

Tensions prevail: Police had to resort to caning to disperse the Youth Congress and Yuva Morcha activists in Kochi.

Tensions prevail: Police had to resort to caning to disperse the Youth Congress and Yuva Morcha activists in Kochi.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

With ‘diplomatic bags’ turning a safe route to smuggle gold into the country, baggages arriving from abroad through the diplomatic channel will be subjected to increased surveillance by law enforcers.

The seizure of 30 kg of gold sent by the diplomatic channel to an officer of the Consulate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and the presence of the Consulates of the UAE, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Russia, and Germany in Kerala have put the authorities on further alert.

Also read: NIA court remands Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair to 14-day custody

The diplomatic channel was reportedly used for gold smuggling six times this year via the airport by the same team that imported gold from Dubai and landed in the Custom’s net. The inquiry by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) will reveal if the diplomatic channel was misused for smuggling gold through other airports too, sources said.

Diplomatic bags reach only the Consulates of the UAE and Maldives in Thiruvananthapuram through the scheduled airlines. The protocols of the Union Ministry of External Affairs and procedures of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) are followed for handling such bags.

Tensions prevail: Police had to resort to caning to disperse the Youth Congress and Yuva Morcha activists in Kochi.

Tensions prevail: Police had to resort to caning to disperse the Youth Congress and Yuva Morcha activists in Kochi.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

 

In the case of the Honorary Consulates of Germany and Russia in the State capital, sources said the needs are taken care of by the Consulates of the respective countries in Bengaluru and Chennai.

Laid-out procedures

Diplomatic bags should have visible external marks of their character and may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for official use. These bags should also bear the name and address of the consignee and that of the sender.

Heavier diplomatic bags are carried as baggage on the aircraft while the diplomatic mail of the missions abroad is taken in the cabin as ‘Diplock’. In case an aircraft meets with an accident, there are laid-out procedures to destroy them as they may contain classified and sensitive documents.

The diplomatic bags are sealed at the embassies and missions and will have to be collected from the designated Customs officer by the designated embassy officer. Mails are sent in advance on the diplomatic bag and there will be no clearing agent, sources said.

Diplomatic bags of any classification, whether it is carried by a courier or sent as cargo, cannot be opened under any circumstances by the security personnel. “Misusing the diplomatic channel for smuggling is the work of orchestrated minds and a serious look is needed to plug the loopholes,” sources said.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 5:58:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/diplomatic-baggage-to-come-under-the-scanner/article32060133.ece

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