7 kg in biscuits found concealed in toilet, no arrests made

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Wednesday seized 7 kg of contraband gold, all in biscuit form, from the toilet of an aircraft which landed at the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram from Muscat.

The agency has confiscated the Jet Airways’ plane in connection with the gold haul. There have been no arrests so far.

The aircraft was scheduled to be cleaned and refuelled for its next trip to Bangalore (with a new set of passengers and crew) when DRI inspectors boarded the plane. It seemed the agency, which included investigators from its Kochi unit, had acted on the basis of specific intelligence.

On verification, they found that no passenger, who disembarked from the flight here, had booked himself or herself on the plane’s next trip to Bangalore.

Investigators said they suspected that some other person was scheduled to board the flight from Thiruvananthapuram, collect the packet, and deliver it to his or her handlers in Bangalore.

The DRI had thwarted a relatively less used and more complicated method of smuggling intended to circumvent the mandatory customs check of passengers at the port of entry, officials said.

The investigators described the technique as a classic “dead letter box drop (DLB)” gold smuggling operation. (A DLB is an inconspicuous spot where objects are deliberately hidden by one person for his or her collaborator to collect without either of them having to establish direct contact with each other in a manner that might compromise their secrecy.)

A senior investigator said he could not rule out the possibility that the operation could be an inside job.

The DRI has registered a case under the Customs Act in this connection.

The investigators said that Gulf-based hawala networks (an illegal and largely anonymous cash transfer method opted by those who wish to avoid normal banking channels for different reasons) commonly used smuggled gold to compensate their agents in the country.