The Customs and Preventive Department on Sunday seized at least 30 kgs of gold from an air cargo consignment bound for the United Arab Emirates consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Customs officials said it was the biggest seizure in the recent past that too from diplomatic baggage meant for employees of the consulate general’s office.
The raid was carried out after customs obtained permission from the Ministry of External Affairs since most consignments to diplomatic missions enjoy immunity under the Vienna Convention.
“We had definite intelligence about this. A search is going on and the quantity may go up. We have detained one person and are on the lookout for two more,” said Sumit Kumar, Customs Commissioner in-charge of Kerala and Lakshadweep region.
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The consignment came through a chartered flight. Customs suspect that the smuggling syndicate was using some of the lower level employees to make use of immunity to smuggle gold. Usually such consignments pass without any check. “We have to make it very clear that the consignment was booked in the name of some lower-level officials not in the name of the consular general of the friendly country. Our preliminary investigation shows the smuggling syndicate was using some of them,” he said.
The gold was hidden inside some household equipment to avoid detection and it will be worth several crores of rupees. The commissioner said exact details will be revealed after checking some more baggage and the quantity of gold may go up. He said this will be the largest seizure in the recent past.
After gold prices skyrocketed there has been a big spike in smuggling also. At least, 15 kgs of the yellow metal were seized from chartered flights from the middle-east countries in last two weeks– Kozhikkode International Airport topped in seizures.
Officials said often smuggling syndicates think that frisking norms are likely to be lax in the time of Covid-19 and there won’t be any tight checking on chartered flights but they are mistaken.
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