SL gang rents Chennai airport shop, smuggles 267kg gold in two months

Racket was uncovered when customs caught shop’s sales executive with 850g gold paste
Chennai airport
Chennai airport(Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

CHENNAI : Sri Lankan gold smugglers rented out a retail shop in the departure lounge of Chennai international airport through a local resident and have managed to successfully smuggle 267kg of gold worth Rs 167 crore through the owner and employees of the shop in two months, Chennai Customs said on Saturday.

The agency busted this massive gold smuggling racket and arrested nine people — a Sri Lankan passenger, Sabir Ali, owner of the retail shop ‘Airhub’, and his seven employees.

The shop selling toys and souvenirs had entered into a contract with Vidvedaa PRG, a company which has taken the shops on lease inside the airport premises.

Customs stumbled upon the racket when the officials on Tuesday apprehended a sales executive of Airhub who had concealed three bundles of 850gm of gold paste in his rectum and was trying to take it out of the airport. Officials of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) found that he had got the gold from a Sri Lankan transit passenger who had smuggled it in from Abu Dhabi at the behest of another Lankan citizen living there. Transit passengers flying to Sri Lanka would be in the Chennai airport for 16-23 hours. In the toilet or at the shop, they would transfer the gold paste to Airhub’s employees who would conceal it in their rectum and hand it over to a receiver outside the airport. Sources said that Airhub’s employees were recruited and trained by the syndicate for concealing the gold in their rectum. Using this modus operandi, they had successfully smuggled hundreds of bundles containing 267kg of gold worth `167 crore over past two months, Customs said.

According to sources, Sabir Ali and his seven employees have earned a commission of at least a few crores of rupees for their role in the smuggling racket. Incidentally, the total gold seized by Chennai Customs in 2023-24 was 344kg. According to sources, a Sri Lankan suspect living in Abu Dhabi had instructed the passengers to smuggle the gold only through Airhub and its employees. TNIE had earlier reported in detail about the gold smuggling nexus of Sri Lankan transit passengers and staff at the Chennai airport.

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