DRI detects fund flow trail

Summons relative of officer arrested in gold smuggling case for questioning

July 10, 2019 12:16 am | Updated 12:16 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has reportedly stumbled upon evidence of illicit flow of funds between the close relatives of those accused of abetting large-scale illegal import of gold through the international airport here.

Officials privy to the ongoing probe said the DRI had summoned the close relative of a senior customs officer for questioning.

The agency had arrested the officer earlier on the charge of helping the collaborators of a Dubai-based smuggling ring dodge duty on imported bullion by allowing the carriers to pass unchallenged through the airport check-post.

The DRI had flagged bank transfers of sizeable sums of money between the accused and the nominees of the suspect officer.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was probing the anti-corruption angle in the case, has reportedly evinced interest in the information dug up by the DRI.

Illegal assets case

Officials said the proof could help the agency build up a disproportionate assets case against the accused officer.

Officials said the various central agencies had viewed the brazen smuggling of gold in trade quantities through the airport as a breach of national security.

In a recent court filing, the CBI had said that gold smugglers could successfully run the gauntlet of various agencies at the Thiruvananthapuram airport for long because they had at least one pliant officer at all times at the X-ray scanning machine operated by the Customs department to detect contraband, firearms, narcotic drugs and explosives.

Background check

An official said the situation had precipitated a need to vet the background of Customs officers and examine their track record before assigning them for sensitive tasks that called for a high-level of probity.

The case had also highlighted the CBI’s obvious floundering as a watchdog agency to curb graft in the Customs department in Kerala and an alleged subculture that works to the advantage of corrupt enforcers.

Security audit

Several agencies have also recommended a security audit of the airport to identify surveillance camera blind spots, conduct background checks on-ground staff, and address other vulnerabilities. The multiple investigations by the CBI and DRI might also result in criminal charges against the end beneficiaries of the racket, a set of high-profile jewellers and hawala racketeers.

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