HYDERABAD: Customs officials at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Shamshabad on Sunday recovered 3.1 kg gold from a Visakhapatnam-bound flight which arrived from Dubai. Based on a tip off, officials searched the Air India flight AI-952 and found the yellow metal concealed behind the pipe under one of the seats. The recovery is worth Rs 75 lakh approximately.
The officials point out that it was the fifth such case in the last six weeks where they have recovered abandoned gold based on tip-offs. Incidentally, it has always been the same Visakhapatnam-bound AI-952 flight from Dubai which they have intercepted.
Three cases of gold smuggling involving the same modus operandi was detected in December, and two so far in January. In all, the officials have seized not less than 10 kg gold.
Though customs officials have busted many smuggling rackets and arrested many in the last one year, the new modus operandi of concealing gold on an international flight with multiple stoppages has helped the carriers evade the sleuths and arrest. “We recovered 3.1 kg from AI-952 which arrived at 9 am at Shamshabad. It was found abandoned and hence no arrest,” said a customs official.
Officials though could easily access the details of the passengers who have travelled by the flight, going by the passengers list, investigations have not made any headway so far. As it is an international flight with multiple stoppages, officials say the receiver could pick it up as per his/her convenience. Thus, they suspect strong involvement of airport officials. “Without airport officials’ assistance it is not possible to smuggle out anything,” added the official.
The smugglers plant the gold in the flight that reaches Hyderabad where another passenger who boards the flight picks it up. As the carrier disembarks at the domestic airport in Vizag after an hour-long journey from Hyderabad, he/she could escape with nominal checks.
“In flights, there would be a hollow pipe which supports the three seats. The window side of the pipe is usually open and gold biscuits are kept inside that for the next passenger to locate and retrieve,” said another official who pointed out that such a modus operandi was detected in 2013. Each biscuit is usually 28.8 grams and the present market value of one kg gold is approximately Rs 25 lakh.
- 5 cases in six weeks
- At least 10 kg recovered
- No arrests so far
- Carriers use Dubai-Hyderabad-Vizag (AI-952) flight
- Biscuits hidden inside a hollow pipe that supports seats, retrieved by domestic passenger later on.