THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Customs investigating the seizure of 123 kg of gold valued at `45 crore that was smuggled into Kerala, ahead of Akshaya Tritiya and Deepavali in 2019, after simultaneous raids in the state, has found that the perpetrators of the offence had tried to launder the smuggled gold into legal possession after it was seized by the agency.
Customs officials said that the illegal trade of smuggled gold was thoroughly investigated and it was revealed that the exemption of e-way bill for the movement of gold was misused by gold units or persons, by preparing tax invoices on credit sale/ purchase, or issuing vouchers meant for job work with back date, and then tried to regularise with GST return at a later stage to create authenticity for the smuggled gold that was seized.
Thus, they tried to launder the smuggled gold into legal possession after its seizure by the Customs, the agency said in a release. Customs Preventive Division, Thrissur, had seized 123 kg of gold valued at `45 crore, 1,900 US dollars, `1.4 crore and two vehicles during the mass preventive operation held on October 16, 2019, which witnessed the participation of more than 200 officers of Customs in a search conducted all over Kerala.
The mass preventive operation was the biggest raid conducted in the country by the Customs Preventive Unit, Kerala. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic was the main challenge to the Investigation Officers. The Central Board of Excise & Customs, New Delhi, had extended its six-month investigation time first up to 30-9-2019 and finally up to 31-12-2020. More than 250 voluntary statements were recorded and 20 arrests made during investigation, the Customs said.
Follow-up searches were conducted at various places in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. As a result of the searches, approximately 4 kg of smuggled gold was seized from different jewelleries in Chennai and Madurai. 21 show-cause notices were issued in 29 cases to more than 100 accused including three chartered accountants and two tax consultants who helped the accused make forged documents/bills/issue vouchers and books of accounts for laundering the smuggled gold and to get it released from the department.
Thrissur Division, has effected a record seizure of 138 kg of smuggled gold totally valued at Rs 48 crore, smuggled foreign cigarettes valued at Rs 8 lakh and foreign currency equivalent to Rs 2 Iakh during the financial year 2019-20 and 2020-21.