Suspected gold carrier who brought coronavirus

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KASARGOD: On Saturday, two days after Ameer B (name changed to protect identity) tested positive for Covid-19, the Kasaragod district administration released his route map, a document that helps the public find out if they had come in contact with the infected person. But the route map was dotted with blind spots and long ‘missing in action’ periods, making the whole exercise futile. District Collector D Sajith Babu said Ameer was not cooperating with the officials in preparing the route map. “He is not telling the truth and it has become difficult to prepare the map,” he said.

TNIE found that Ameer was not revealing all the names of the persons he met and the places he visited because he could be a carrier, bringing in smuggled gold to Kerala. “The main reason why he cannot reveal the names is that all his initial contacts after landing at the airport are gold smugglers and jewellers interested in smuggled goods,” said N S Raji, deputy Customs Commissioner at Calicut International Airport.

If he starts naming people he met, many publicly known persons will be exposed, she said. “That’s why he is not cooperating,” she said.Raji, who is also the head of the Customs Air Intelligence Unit at Karipur airport, said Ameer landed with two of his relatives on March 11. “Our internal intelligence report had flagged the three persons as gold smugglers,” she said.

He travelled 14 times to West Asia in past three months

Ameer had travelled 14 times to West Asia in the past three months, said N S Raji, deputy Customs Commissioner at Calicut International Airport. “He has used Karipur airport the most, but has also flown out and landed at Mangaluru, Mumbai and Varanasi airports,” she said.Ameer told TNIE that he helped his relative run a mobile phone shop in Dubai. But his travel history is fascinating. He goes to a city in a West Asian country and returns in two days, only to fly back again.The last trip he made was on March 6 to Dubai and returned on March 11, and created a havoc. On March 11, when Ameer arrived, the two health desks at the airport cleared him and he reached the Customs desk.

Customs officials impounded the passports of three passengers, and asked him to bring their luggage for inspection.“But instead of bringing the luggage, the three persons slipped out of the airport with their baggage,” said Raji.According to the route map, they left the airport at 7.45am and checked into Zahir Residency, a hotel which is a 10-minute walk from the airport.

But they returned to the airport for their passports at 10.30am. They left the airport at 3.30pm and returned at 8pm. The route map says they returned because of some ‘baggage issue’. But the fact is they were missing for around six hours. “They came back for their passports, which we did not give because they did not bring their baggage,” said Raji.While waiting outside the airport, CCTV cameras caught Ameer constantly spitting on the ground.

Raji said eight Customs officials were quarantined after coming to know Ameer tested positive. As far as evidence is concerned, the Customs Department has nothing against Ameer. So it has booked them for obstructing the duty of Customs. On March 19, the day the Customs Department sent him a summons notice, he tested positive.Between March 11 and 19, Ameer went around travelling in train, buses, attending two weddings, a cradle ceremony, playing carroms in his local clubs at Eriyal, took a haircut, attended prayers at his local mosque, hugged MLA N A Nellikkunnu at a marriage function and shook hands with MLA M C Kamaruddin, after signalling his car to stop on the highway.

“The MLA’s car drove past me but stopped, backed up to meet me,” Ameer told TNIE. “I shook his hands and took a selfie with him,” he said.The Customs official said they knew he was part of a big  gold-smuggling racket and we were closing in on him. “But this time, along with the gold, he might have brought the coronavirus too,” said Raji. If those who got in touch with him did not report to the Health department, there would be more cases of Covid-19 in the state. Ameer told TNIE that the Customs should have evidence against him before accusing him of being a smuggler.“Last time I brought 40g white gold and I paid the duty,” he said.

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