Over a fortnight after a gold smuggler pointed the Customs department in his direction, a local jewellery store owner turned himself in yesterday. The jewellery merchant was accompanied by his sister, an advocate with the Customs department, who is also being questioned in the matter.
Raj Vasant Jadhav and Apeksha Jain
mid-day had reported on December 9 that a flier, Raj Vasant Jadhav, was caught smuggling in 7 kg of gold (worth Rs 1.6 crore) hidden in his underwear and shoes. He told the authorities that he was to hand over the gold to Gaurav Jain, the owner of Arihant Jewelers at Zaveri Bazaar. Jadhav was also found carrying the business card of Gaurav’s sister, advocate Apeksha Jain. At the time, she had vehemently denied that either she or her brother had any involvement with the smuggling case.
Jadhav, an X-ray technician in London, said he had passed on 4 kg gold to Gaurav in person on ten such trips in the past. He had made a total of 15 such trips and would stay only 15 hours in Mumbai before flying out again. “No businessman will spend money and 18 hours travelling to stay just 15 hours. It has been learnt that Jadhav has property worth crores in the Hiranandani area of Powai. Sometimes Jadhav would hand over the consignments to Gaurav at the airport terminal, other times, he would deliver it at his jewellery shop,” said a senior Customs official.
Another official said, “Gaurav will be produced in court on Wednesday. We have sufficient evidence to prove him guilty. His sister, Apeksha, was also questioned, but she did not cooperate with the officials. She had earlier claimed she was not in touch with her brother, but the two of them came to the airport together. When asked about this, she claimed that she had seen her brother in a taxi at the city side of the terminal and hence joined him as he surrendered.”
According to a senior official, Gaurav was confident that once Jadhav got bail, he could convince him to stay mum about his involvement. But during the bail pleas hearing on Monday, Jadhav’s custody was extended to January 4, which put pressure on Gaurav to surrender. Jain had spent the last two weeks hiding in a temple in fear of the authorities, added the official. “The Customs department had also sealed Gaurav’s shops, searched six of his properties and created pressure on him to surrender,” said an official, adding that Gaurav was detained and will be produced in court today.
Top sources said that the Jain home in Byculla had been sealed over loan issues, which might have forced Gaurav into illegal activites. The family currently resides in a rented apartment in Mazgaon. Officials added Apeksha has also been summoned to appear in court on Monday.