Kerala

DRI sees a gold link to tax evasion

Thiruvananthapuram airport a major entry point for contraband gold

Several central agencies are reportedly looking into the gold-smuggling related tax evasion racket that possibly involves the owners of at least one major jewellery chain in Kerala.

Officials said the preliminary inquiries stem from the assumption of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) that a crime ring based in Dubai had illegally brought in at least 100 kg of gold through the Thiruvananthapuram international airport in the past one year.

They said some gold showrooms operated behind the scenes like pawn shops, offering cash for contraband gold without any bills or questions asked to squeeze profits by dodging the import duty.

Three carriers held

The agency had recently arrested three of the network’s top carriers, including two women, and seized 25 kg of gold from them.

It has also zeroed in the local links of the gang, including a lawyer.

The DRI has told the court that members of the ring had made several round trips to Dubai and Thiruvananthapuram, successfully smuggling in at least 20 kg of gold in their hand baggage during each return journey.

Investigators said the racketeers had the help of airport insiders.

The DRI questioned few customs officers as part of the probe.

The Central Bureau of Investigation CBI, which is tasked to look into the corruption angle, has reportedly sought “third party information” about the case.

Investigators would examine the travel history of the carriers, check air travel manifests for their arrival timings, and compare them with the duty stints of customs officials to find out if the smuggling ring had received any inside help.

The DRI has issued warrants for the arrest of the lawyer and his contact in Dubai, whom it suspects to be vital links in the international racket.

Digital trail

It is also verifying the digital trail left behind by the accused, including their mobile phone contacts, text messages, and social media history.

Investigators said the ring had used family groups to recruit a set of educated women, including a practising lawyer, who did not match the established profile of carriers to smuggle gold via the airport.

The resurgence in the smuggling of gold has caused a decline in the legal import and sale of bullion.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 3:54:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/dri-sees-a-gold-link-to-tax-evasion/article27153589.ece

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