Customs officer held in gold smuggling case

25 kg of gold seized from passenger in city airport last week

Published - May 25, 2019 12:02 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Friday arrested a Customs official in connection with its probe into the failed attempt to smuggle 25 kilograms of gold through the Thiruvananthapuram international airport last week.

Investigators identified the suspect as V. Radhakrishnan, Superintendent, Air Intelligence Unit, Air Customs. Thiruvananthapuram.

They had questioned him for several days in connection with the seizure of the contraband from the handbag of an air-passenger who alighted here from Dubai.

In judicial custody

DRI agents picked him up from his house at Vattiyurkavu early Friday, procured a transit warrant from a local magistrate and produced him before the Economic Offences Court, Kochi, which remanded him in judicial custody till June 6 on the charge of having violated the Customs Act.

The DRI’s case against the accused is that he had abused his official position and abetted the smuggling of gold by carriers recruited by a Dubai-based network, which involved at least two lawyers, a cosmetician, and several women.

The agency alleged that the network funnelled gold through the airport here in bulk quantities when the accused handled the X-ray machine at the Customs check-post.

Huge profits

The racket was operated for over a year and it illegally brought in hundreds of kilograms of contraband gold. By dodging customs duty with the help of officials, the smugglers had made a minimum profit of ₹4 lakh on a kilogram of gold.

Much of the gold was converted into machine-crafted jewellery in the backyard of rented houses in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. The ornaments were retailed with proper bill or accounting by some major chains looking to squeeze profits at the expense of the public exchequer.

Investigators said the racket had paid huge sums as backhanders to corrupt airport insiders. They said that the officials who abetted the racketeers stood to gain at least ₹2 lakh for every kilogram of gold they allowed illegally into the country through the airport. The racketeers ploughed their profits back to their sponsors in Dubai in foreign currency secreted out of the country in the handbags of women they employed as carriers.

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