Gold utensils weighing two kilograms and valued at Rs.60 lakh were seized from a passenger who arrived from Jeddah at the Calicut International Airport at Karipur on Saturday morning. Mohammed Navas, hailing from Puthukode near Ramanattukara, had in his possession three tumblers and four spoons made of gold, but coated with silver.
On X-ray examination, the Customs authorities noticed the difference in shape and size of the utensils. Navas was arrested and produced before court. On Friday, two women, including an airhostess, were arrested at the airport for carrying six kilos of gold on their bodies.
A huge quantity of gold is suspected to have been smuggled in through the Karipur airport in the past six months after tighter restrictions were imposed by the Union government on legal import of gold. With the curbs, legal import through Karipur airport, which earlier used to import 200 kg a month, had almost come to nil. With the demand for gold remaining high in Malabar, gold suppliers soon turned to smuggling.
Customs authorities said those arrested were mere carriers of illegal gold. Navas reportedly admitted to the Customs that he was offered Rs.1 lakh by some members of the racket. A senior Customs officer, requesting anonymity, said no member of the gold racket would come into direct play. “They always hire and use carriers. And there is no shortage of carriers with thousands of unskilled and uneducated persons working in the Gulf for meagre wages,” he said.
Staff Reporter writes from Kochi:
The two women who were arrested at Karipur airport here on Friday on charges of smuggling gold into the country were remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody on Saturday evening.
Hiromasa V. Sebastian, a flight attendant, and her friend, Rahila Cheerayi, were detained at Karipur with gold bars weighing 6 kg tied to their bodies. They were produced before Judicial Magistrate of First Class Joseph P.Y. at his residence on Saturday.
Special public prosecutor for the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence C.P. Udayabhanu submitted that the two women were involved in gold smuggling operations earlier and requested that they be remanded in judicial custody.
Sources said the two women, along with a third person named Shalini, had been working as carriers for a gold smuggling racket for the last four months. They were allegedly paid Rs.1 lakh for each kg of gold they smuggled in. The three women had smuggled in as much as 39 kg of gold valued at Rs.11.87 crore during multiple trips previously, sources said. The DRI has also listed three other persons as accused along with the two women.