5-kg gold seized as customs foil smuggling bid
By Express News Service | Published: 29th August 2013 12:42 PM |
Air intelligence unit of the Customs department on Wednesday seized five bars of gold weighing 1 kg each from a passenger who arrived at Kochi international airport from Sharjah at 5.30 am by JetAir flight 9W 561.
Customs commissioner (Kerala) Dr K N Raghavan said that this was the largest gold haul from a single passenger in the 14-year history of the airport. The five kilograms of gold will fetch about Rs1.41 crore in the open market, he said.
According to Raghavan the gold was seized based on a tip-off from a source whom he didn’t disclose, that gold had been concealed under a seat. The Customs personnel, who were immediately pressed into service, found the gold from seat number 29. The passenger was identified with the help of the airlines and was arrested before he left the airport.
According to Customs officials, the passenger Vafsamaraikyar Habeer from Thiruvadanai, Ramanathapuram Dist, Tamil Nadu, had concealed the gold bars on one side of the seat flap wrapped with tapes and folded back to be hidden behind his back. Though he had planned to pack them one by one under his belly and on his thighs did not get the right opportunity before the flight landed and so he had to leave them there.
But according to other sources, the particular JetAir flight would fly on domestic service to Chennai on the next lap. The consignor at Sharjah had asked Vafsamaraikyar to relay the seat number to the next man at Kochi, ready to leave for Chennai on the same flight on the same seat number.
The new plan would bypass the Customs checking as the international sector would end at Kochi, and the passenger could just pass through the Chennai airport doors with the gold in a hand baggage.
The Customs officials said that Vafsamaraikyar had tapes and other plastic materials with him when he was arrested, substantiating his failure of sticking the gold to his body.
Commissioner Raghavan said that in view of the increasing gold smuggling to Kochi, advanced surveillance machines, metal detectors and allied equipment would be installed at the Customs area of the airport soon. Necessary sanctions from the Home Ministry has been obtained, he said. Additional Customs staff would also be deployed for watching and detecting the movements.
He said the arrested passenger is being questioned by the officials, and they are hopeful of extracting the details of the accomplice who had been waiting outside the airport. Once the information is out, the department will trace out the origin and others involved in the haul, said the officials.
The passenger would be presented before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate for remanding and questioning.