MALAPPURAM: Gold smuggling syndicates have turned the Kozhikode airport and its surrounding areas into a hub of their illegal activities, thanks to the alleged inaction on the part of Malappuram and Kozhikode police, customs, customs preventive department and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). Even after several reports of smugglers and quotation gangs kidnapping gold carriers from the area, none of the authorities could so far find out the kingpins behind the gold smuggling. Though the officials are well aware that a Koduvally-based gold mafia is behind most of these gold smuggling cases, the group continues to operate with impunity. A few smuggling gangs, based in Malappuram district, Kozhikode and Kasaragod are also reportedly engaged in the smuggling activities here.
The Ramanattukara mishap —in which a five members of a quotation gang from Cherpulassery, who reached the airport to protect gold carrier Shafeeque Melethil, 23, were killed — is the latest incident, which revealed the existence of the Koduvally mafia again. Police revealed that Shafeeque was carrying 2.33 kg of gold worth K1.11 crore for the Koduvally mafia. The quotation gang was hired to protect Shafeeque from a Kannur gang which arrived at the airport to rob him. But, due to hard luck, customs seized the gold from the carrier at the airport on Monday night. The accident occurred on Tuesday morning after the Cherpulassery gang were returing to Palakkad from the airport area.
“Smuggling through Kozhikode airport is considered relatively easy. Even some of the contract staff and some officials inside the airport help the smugglers. Also, the authorities turn off the streetlights in the vicinity of the airport to help the smuggling activities. Police checking is also less in the area. Besides, whatever happens, the probe by customs and police will not reach the kingpins as was seen in the case of Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case. The people behind the smuggling operations are well connected,” said a person associated with the airport advisory committee on condition of anonymity.He also warned people against becoming carriers for the gold smuggling rackets. “The rackets provide a decent payment to carriers. Carriers will get easy money just for traveling. But, it is highly dangerous since rival smuggling groups are always watching the carriers and they kidnap gold carriers using quotation gangs,” he added.
Last year, Riyas, 36, of Kunduthodu near Kuttiyadi in Kozhikode, was kidnapped by a gang while he was en route to home from Kozhikode airport. They suspected him to be a gold carrier trying to flee with the smuggled gold. The gang kidnapped Riyas from Kalothu, near Kondotty, and took him to their hideout and beat him up. However, realising that he was not a carrier, they released him. Several such kidnapping incidents connected with the airport have been reported so far. In the same year, another gang ferrying smuggled gold knocked down two DRI officials near Kozhikode airport.Even after several such incidents, the government and its departments sit idle without bringing the kingpins to justice. The inaction encourages the smugglers to carry on with their activities.
Though the officials are well aware that a Koduvally-based gold mafia is behind most of these gold smuggling cases, the group continues to operate with impunity. A few gangs based in Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasaragod are also reportedly engaged in smuggling activities here.