‘Nobody would have believed that I was innocent. I would have been on death row by now’


Vengeri_JerishFor Vengeri jerish, excess baggage proved to be the difference between life and death. On 13 April, the 28-year-old native of Naduvannur village in Kozhikode district was returning to Kuwait, where he works as a shop assistant. He was supposed to carry a parcel for an acquaintance, but decided not to at the last moment because his luggage had already overshot the 25-kg limit.

“I thank god for helping me take the right decision at that moment,” he says. “The parcel contained 1.28 kg of brown sugar. Nobody would have believed that I was innocent. I would have been on death row by now. After a year, they would have shot me for drug trafficking.”

It all started when he got a call from his friend Chakkeri Sreejith, who was working as a driver in Kuwait. Sreejith, who had come to Kerala on 30 March to attend his father’s funeral, requested Jerish to carry a parcel on his return trip. On 12 April, Sreejith handed over an envelope and a 2 kg parcel. He told Jerish that the parcel was meant for his friend and contained a pair of jeans.

On the day of his departure, Jerish found that his luggage exceeded the limit of 25 kg and left the parcel at home.

When he reached Kuwait, Shafeeq, who hails from Kothamangalam, called him and enquired about the parcel. When Jerish told him the truth, Shafeeq got angry and threatened him. Jerish replied that he could pick up the parcel from Kerala and gave him his number.

Meanwhile, Jerish’s friends opened the parcel and found 1.28 kg of brown sugar in packets stitched inside the jeans. They alerted the Excise Department and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

“My friends became suspicious when Shafeeq started threatening me,” says Jerish. “So, they set up the trap. Otherwise, my father would have returned the parcel.”

Jerish’s friends set a trap for the drug mafia and waited for them to pick up the parcel. On 15 April, Rashik, who hails from Melukavu in Malappuram district, came to pick it up. He was handed over to the Excise Department. It was later revealed that Rashik was Shafeeq’s cousin and they were involved in trafficking drugs to Kuwait.

On 16 April, the Excise Department summoned Sreejith to probe his involvement in the case. After interrogation, he was asked to appear before the investigation team again on 22 April. But he committed suicide on that day.

The NCB informed the Indian Embassy in Kuwait about the drug trafficking network and Shafeeq’s involvement. He was deported from Kuwait and arrested on his arrival. Now, both Shafeeq and Rashik are in jail. The Excise Department has written to the National Investigation Agency to probe the case as the drug syndicate operating in Kerala has strong links with people in Gulf countries.

But the worst is not over for Jerish. The drug syndicate is busy shadowing him wherever he goes. After all, they had lost more than 1 crore due to his “negligence”.


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Bureau Chief, South

Jeemon Jacob has been a journalist for 26 years both in print and television, as of 2011. He was a Reuters Fellow and spent nine months in Oxford University as visiting scholar in 1994-95. He has headed the political bureau in New Delhi of the Rashtra Deepika group of publications and later joined News Express in Brunei Darussalam as Features Editor. He won the Statesman award for rural reporting in 1987 for his seven articles that exposed a brown sugar racket in Kumily, Kerala.

In 1990, he won the state award for best reporting and in 1992, his article on social alienation of people with HIV/AIDS won the prestigious PUCL Award for human rights reporting in 1992. Jeemon is a graduate in English Literature and Journalism and has exposed the corruption behind the DMK government’s allotting prime land to high court judges, senior civil servants, and the kith and kin of politicians under the government’s discretionary quota. He is based in Thiruvananthapuram.


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