Gold seizure probe to focus on airport insiders

Confidence with which gold was smuggled hints at inside help

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Tuesday appeared to be on the verge of foiling a loose network of professional smugglers, airport insiders, and enterprising amateurs it suspects to be responsible for the startling rise in the amount of gold brought illegally into the country through the international airport here.

The agency inspected several premises and detained at least two persons in connection with its investigation into the seizure of 25 kg of gold from the hand baggage of an air passenger who arrived here from Dubai on Monday.

Woman held

The DRI also arrested a woman who was on the same plane.

Investigators said she had handed over the shoulder bag containing the gold biscuits to the “carrier” minutes before touchdown because she was a frequent flyer whose travel profile matched that of an established carrier and hence would cause suspicion at the airport customs check-post.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also evinced interest in the case given the quantity of the gold seized by the DRI.

Investigators said the brazen confidence with which the carrier hoped to clear the customs check-post with 25 gold biscuits kept openly in his handbag pointed to assured inside help. Investigators have sought the details of officers on duty at the Customs Hall at the time to ferret out collaborators if any. Investigators said the smugglers had recruited a layman assisted by a professional carrier to illegally bring in 25 kg of gold in a single run. They hoped to take advantage of the massive influx of passengers from the Gulf on Monday and the relatively low number of customs enforcers at the check-post here.

An official said not more than 28 enforcers man the Customs desk in Kochi in turns. The airport handles more than 50 lakh passengers and 23,000 flights annually. Singling out a carrier in a crowded airport hall merely going by behavioural clues such as anxiety or abnormal gait was like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:07:32 PM |

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