Rattled by frequent seizures of gold at the airport, smuggling syndicates unsuccessfully tried a unique modus operandi, replacing four of the eight lead plates in the rechargeable battery of an emergency light with gold.
These lead-acid batteries are made up of metal plates suspended in a solution of sulphuric acid.
To their dismay however, Customs officials later realised it was only a dry run to test the efficacy of the method.
The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai Customs seized 190.5 grams of gold
valued at Rs5.16 lakh from Sanghar Sultan Gani, who arrived from Dubai at 4am, after a tip-off. On checking the gold plates and after recording his statement, officials learnt it was an experiment, as the amount of gold was not enough to offset the labour cost of making the plates.
The seizure was made by an AIU batch headed by assistant commissioner of Customs Rishi Yadav, which stopped Gani on his arrival by an Air India flight at Chhatrapati Shivaji international airport.
On opening the emergency light, at first the officials found nothing amiss, but were shocked when they opened the lead-acid battery and saw four of the eight plates had been packed in a black adhesive tape.
Officials said it was a risky job to remove the plates as the sulphuric acid could have caused burn injuries. “It is difficult to detect the gold plates inside the battery during screening, and to make them even less detectable, the syndicate had covered them with black adhesive tape,” the official said.
The AIU team arrested Gani, who hails from Gujarat. He was later released on bail. In his statement, he told officials he is a worker with a construction company in Dubai and was asked to carry the emergency light in lieu of a free air ticket and Rs3,000.
Gani told officials that he was asked to make a call after hiring a taxi on reaching Mumbai. He was then to be given directions to a hotel in Dongri where the emergency light was to be collected.
Gold smuggling has seen a spurt since last month after the import duty was hiked from 6% to 8%. In June, Mumbai airport Customs seized about 19kg of gold worth Rs5 crore.