In a major haul, the Air Intelligence wing of the Customs seized five gold bars, weighing one kilogram each, and arrested a passenger from Sharjah for trying to smuggle it in.
Customs Commissioner K.N. Raghavan said this was the largest seizure made from Cochin airport from a single passenger in the last 10 years and the catch also revealed that the trend of employing relay carriers had moved into the State.
The gold seized on Wednesday from Vafsamaraikyar Habeer of Thiruvadanai, Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, is expected to fetch Rs. 1.41 crore in the market.
The accused, who was flying in from Sharjah carrying the gold, did not attempt to take it out in Kochi, as is seen often. But he hid the bars under the seat flap by using adhesive tapes to stick them up.
The JetAir flight was supposed to go on a domestic route to Chennai in its next leg and it is suspected that the accused passed on information regarding the seat number to the consignor, who entrusted him with the material. The gold bars were to be taken out of the flight during its domestic leg, where passengers are not screened unlike international arrivals, said customs officials.
But the plan went bust midway after a fellow passenger alerted the Customs official about the activity, following which a thorough search was done onboard JetAir flight number 9W 561, which was parked at the airport. The gold bars were found under the flap of seat number 29A.
“It is a practice seen outside the State where one smuggler brings in the smuggled item to the flight and another takes it out at a different port. We need to have more investigations on how the smuggler got the inside information about the legs in which the flight will operate,” said Mr. Raghavan.
The Customs officials narrowed down on the accused using description provided by the passenger. The adhesive tapes used to hide the gold bars were recovered from him. He was arrested under Section 104 of the Customs Act, 1962 and will be produced before the court on Thursday.
The operation was led by Customs Deputy Commissioner C. Madhavan and Assistant Commissioner S. Anil Kumar.
With the Kochi Customs seizing nearly 18 kg of gold bars worth more than Rs. 4 crore in different operations, the surveillance has been stepped up. Sources in the customs said better quality metal detectors and advanced surveillance equipment had been brought in and the force was updating itself with the different new methods being employed by smugglers.