12.6 kg gold seized at Chennai airport; airline staff, Lankan man held

The airport ground staff -- a Chennai-based man in his early 20s from Pudupet -- had allegedly collected the gold in paste form from the Lankan passenger and stored it in a toilet
Representational image.
Representational image.

CHENNAI: In one of the biggest busts at the Chennai International Airport in the last few years, customs sleuths seized 12.6 kg of gold worth around Rs 8.5 crore on Saturday.

A Sri Lankan passenger and an airport ground staff working with Indigo Airlines were arrested the following day in connection with the seizure.

Sources said the massive operation conducted by a network of smugglers using a transit passenger was busted following a detailed investigation by customs officials.

The airport ground staff -- a Chennai-based man in his early 20s from Pudupet -- had allegedly collected the gold in paste form from the Lankan passenger and stored it in a toilet. He later concealed it in his pant pocket and shoes before transferring it to a bag in his office.

The customs officials nabbed him on Saturday and a search of his bag allegedly brought to fore gold paste weighing 13.5 kg concealed in small packets. Sources said the staff was supposed to transfer the gold paste to his gang members outside the airport.

Based on his interrogation, the officials on Sunday arrested a 39-year-old Sri Lankan, who had arrived from Singapore and was headed to Dubai. A detailed probe is underway to find if the Lankan man was involved in gold smuggling activities in the past as well.

Sources said that many carriers had brought the gold in small amounts on the same flight and later handed it over to the SL native, who then passed it onto the ground staff. The carriers had hidden the gold paste packets in their rectums, sources said.

The sleuths also found that the staff had made multiple visits to the toilet to transfer the smuggled gold to his office room. He was nabbed from an airport area where he was not assigned any work.

The seized paste was subjected to heat treatment on Sunday, yielding 12.6 kg of 24-Karat gold worth around `8.5 crore, the source further said. A detailed investigation will be held to arrest other members of the smuggling gang operating in Chennai. The probe will also cover staff members at the airport.

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