KOCHI: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested two persons, including a ground handling staffer, for smuggling 3.3 kg of gold worth over Rs 1 crore at Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) on Friday. The arrested were Paul Jose, 27, of Nayathodu, Ernakulam, and Muhammed Ashraf, 27, hailing from Malappuram.
According to DRI sources, Paul was an employee of BWFS, a ground handling agency at CIAL. Ashraf landed on a flight from Dubai in the wee hours of Friday. He had concealed the gold -two whole bars, two pieces of a bar, four coins and two small-sized bars - in his handbag. At a lavatory in the airport, Ashraf handed over the gold to Paul who hid it in his shoes.
“The ground handling staff was under our surveillance as we suspected him of facilitating the gold smugglers. During the interrogation, Paul admitted he was involved in similar gold smuggling attempts on multiple occasions before. His duty at the airport was to provide wheelchair assistance to passengers. He exited the airport through staff gate where the checking is minimal,” an official said.
The DRI caught the duo when they were coming out of the lavatory. The officers suspect there was a third person inside the airport who accompanied the passenger to assist the gold smuggling. “The third person contacted the passenger and ground handling staff using WhatsApp and directed them to enter the lavatory. Later, he moved outside the airport to receive the consignment. We have started an investigation to identify and nab the person. Other persons involved in the racket are to be identified,” an officer said.
The arrested persons will be produced before a magistrate court on Saturday. As the gold price is soaring in India, the smugglers are attempting to smuggle gold in huge quantities from airports in the state. It was the third incident in which persons working in the airport were arrested by DRI for smuggling attempts in the past one month. Last month, the DRI arrested a Customs Havildar who was caught facilitating gold smuggling through CIAL. Similarly, an Air India staffer was arrested for smuggling 5.5 kg of gold at Thiruvananthapuram airport. Recently, the DRI busted a gang which attempted to smuggle 25 kg gold through Thiruvananthapuram airport in which the assistance of an insider is under investigation.