Air Intelligence officials busted an international gold smuggling racket and arrested two people for allegedly trying to smuggle gold bars weighing 1.5 kg worth around ₹45 lakh into the country.
Additional Commissioner of Customs Harsh Vardhan Umre said that one passenger, Reddy Bethireddy, boarded a flight from Dubai in the UAE to Bengaluru via Goa. He was carrying the gold bars, which he hid under the seat of the aircraft. He disembarked at Kempegowda International Airport.
However, he had allegedly arranged for another man to board the same aircraft, which was headed to Hyderabad in Telangana for the domestic leg of the journey. The plan was for the second man to retrieve the gold bars and exit the airport in Hyderabad as a domestic passenger.
However, Reddy Bethireddy was intercepted by customs officials at KIA based on intelligence received from their counterparts in Goa who found his behaviour suspicious. Officials found an invoice for the gold bars, which were purchased in Dubai, among his documents and questioned him.
At first, he claimed that the invoice was for a friend who had bought gold in Dubai. He claimed that he had mistakenly carried the invoice in his baggage.
However, the police found a picture of a seat in the aircraft among his documents.
By this time, passengers were already seated in the aircraft and the plane was getting ready to take off to Hyderabad. It had been converted from AI 994 (Dubai to Bengaluru) to AI 516 (Bengaluru to Hyderabad).
Before the aircraft took off, a customs officer boarded the flight and identified the passenger — Samudra Reddy — who was in the seat which Bethireddy had occupied earlier.
At Hyderabad, with the help of the local Air Intelligence Unit, officials searched the flight and found 1.5 kg of gold in the seat.
Investigations revealed that Samudra Reddy was travelling on a ticket issued to Reddy Bethireddy. It turned out that Reddy Bethireddy booked a ticket on AI 516 for himself from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. After landing in Goa, he sent the e-boarding pass to Samudra Reddy electronically.
Samudra Reddy entered Bengaluru airport by showing a ticket booked to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, but travelled to Hyderabad using the e-boarding pass sent to him by Bethireddy.
Both men have been arrested.
“This is a unique example of alertness and prompt action on the part of customs officers, co-ordination and interaction of three different customs formations with each other, and outwitting smugglers,” Mr. Umre said.