Two Sri Lankan nationals have been detained and are being interrogated
Air Intelligence Unit officials of Goa Customs and Excise Commissionerate at the Dabolim International Airport on Wednesday uncovered the biggest ever gold smuggling racket of 12 kilograms of gold in 12 gold bars. The market value of the said gold is Rs. 3.60 crore, Central Excise and Customs Commissioner V. P. C. Rao told presspersons at the Goa Customs House on Wednesday evening. The value of the seized gold in Dubai was Rs. 3.18 crore.
Two Sri Lankan nationals Mohamed Zuhar Shike Suleiman and Mohamed Riyaz Mohamed Niyaz have been detained and interrogated, said Mr. Rao. He said search was on for a domestic passenger, Shanmugham from Tamil Nadu, who seems to have checked into a local hotel. Two cell phones were recovered from Sri Lankan nationals and their call records are being obtained to get further leads in the case.
The gold was found while rummaging Aircraft No. AI 984 which came to Goa from Dubai via Mumbai on Wednesday morning, on the basis of some suspicious movements of a passenger (Shanmugham) who came to Goa through AI flight No. AI 984 from Mumbai as a domestic passenger.
When he was passing through the Customs area, his Boarding Pass was examined and it was found that he was sitting on Seat No. 26F, which is in the back row of the Aircraft. As his replies were vague and he appeared to have travelled to Goa earlier also, Customs officers became suspicious and verified names of the passenger given the seat No. 26F in the said Aircraft on departure side of the said Aircraft.
It was found that two Sri Lankan nationals were given Seat No. 26F and 26E. This aircraft, which came from Dubai via Mumbai to Goa is converted into a domestic flight from Goa to Delhi via Mumbai, so all the passengers boarding this flight either to Mumbai or Delhi are domestic passengers, Mr. Rao said.
The officials searched the seat 26F occupied by the Sri Lankan national in the aircraft. Underneath the seat, a carbon paper wrapped packet was found with six gold bars each weighing 1 kilogram. Then the officers searched seat No. 26E which was also occupied by another Sri Lankan National and found underneath the said seat another three packets each containing two gold bars.
The gold bars were taken into custody and the two said Sri Lankan nationals were made to de-board from the said flight and detained for further investigations. Mr. Rao said this was a novel modus operandi adopted by the smugglers who smuggled the gold from Dubai to hoodwink the Customs as they would be out of Customs radar at the Customs exit points and the smuggled gold can be safely taken out from the Aircraft by the other gang of smugglers posing as domestic passengers.
From initial interrogations, it has been found that the gold was brought by Sri Lankan nationals from Dubai to Mumbai and they got down at Mumbai giving charge of the gold to one domestic passenger who came to Goa and went out leaving the gold in the Aircraft and the other two Sri Lankan nationals boarded from Goa to take gold back to Mumbai. These two Sri Lankan nationals were having tickets up to Mumbai and got Seat no. 26F and 26E allotted to them.
Mr. Rao disclosed that from the Passport details, it appears that these duo have travelled very widely abroad and used to return to India through several Airports such as Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad and Chennai, etc.
Goa Customs have so far this year foiled 12 cases of gold smuggling, with a total value of Rs. 6.5 crore. More than 17 persons have been arrested this year for gold smuggling.
The Customs have found that Goa’s flight connectivity via Mumbai with four destinations from Middle East is increasingly being used to smuggle gold since the price difference of gold between Gulf and India has widened remarkably.
It is yet another case which substantiated the conviction of Customs officials that Sri Lankan nationals are increasingly used in gold smuggling.