After seizing 1,300 consignments containing 16 kg of gold last week, Air Intelligence Unit officers suspect Saudi Arabian Airlines officials and courier company employees work hand-in-glove to smuggle the yellow metal into the country
The seizure of 16 kg of gold bars from 1,300 packages that came from Dammam last week through Saudi Arabian Airlines has prompted officials of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of customs and of the courier cell of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport to spring into immediate action.
The gold biscuits were cut into pieces and hidden in soap bars. File Pic
After courier cell officials nabbed the gold on June 17 and 19 from the courier terminal, which is adjacent to Mumbai’s T2 international terminal, on June 25, AIU officers nabbed two men who were to take delivery from this consignment and forward them to the final destination. Officials suspect that apart from these men, who have already recorded their statements, Lynx Courier Company, through which the consignment was shipped, and the Saudi Arabian Airlines are also involved in this
A customs officer, who is part of the investigating team, told sunday mid-day on condition of anonymity, “We suspect the two men whom we have arrested knew the recipient and the fact that the consignment contained gold. Also, on June 19, Saudi Arabian Airlines tried to take back the packages without informing us, so we are also probing its involvement in this case. However, the airlines officials have asked for a month’s time to look into the matter and have assured us that they will take severe action if someone among them is found guilty.”
The packages had addresses of Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. AIU officials are now in the process of verifying
these addresses. Milind Lanjewar, additional commissioner of customs said, “We have taken some documents from Saudi Arabian Airlines, including the details of the person who had booked the consignment from Dammam.
We have also procured details of past consignments to scrutinise them. An official from the Saudi Arabian Airlines has told us that they tried to export the packages back as a person from the courier company asked for reshipment claiming it was wrongly consigned.”
The case so far
The gold bars came in two consignments — 600 packages on June 17 and the remaining on June 19. On the first day, a senior courier officer noticed something dark while screening the packets.
He got suspicious and, on checking thoroughly, he and his team found gold, which was cleverly concealed in soap bars. The courier cell found 25 packages that had gold bars cut into pieces and distributed in such a way that they fitted inside the soap bars.
Following mid-day’s report on June 19 about six kilos of gold found inside soap bars, officers from the courier cell seized another consignment of four kilos of gold.
Officials got suspicious after they searched the consignment on June 17 as the pieces of gold concealed in soaps didn’t form complete gold bars.
On further investigations, they learnt that Lynx Courier Company, which had sent the first package, was supposed to deliver another consignment on June 19. They sprung into action and seized the consignment, thereby finding the missing pieces of the gold bars.
The silver case
Prior to this gold seizure, on April 24 earlier this year, custom officers from courier cell and Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) had arrested three employees from Aramex Company who tried to escape customs claims and hid silver jewellery. Investigations revealed that the trio has in the past smuggled around 16 consignments, of a total of 1,024 kg, provisionally worth R4 crore.