Government stumbles on gold forgotten, unnoticed for 60 years

  • Faizan Haider, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Mar 15, 2013 08:58 IST

They lay carelessly in a corner of a warehouse near Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, gathering dust and going unnoticed for nearly 60 years — piles of sealed boxes and packets that had failed to make it past customs.

But when warehouse authorities opened these packets two weeks ago, in the presence of 11 top officials from the customs department, they struck gold, quite literally.

Stashed inside the innocuous boxes and packets was the precious metal in all its glory —  biscuits, bricks, jewellery. The final tally came to 20 kg, worth Rs. 6 crore.

These 20 kilograms, seized between 1954 and 1970, were sold to the State Bank of India and the Government of India mint in Nashik who also through this fiscal bought 75 kg of gold confiscated during 1970-2002.

“We sold 95 kg gold this financial year, the highest for any zone in a financial year. The SBI and the mint will be giving Rs. 25 crore for this,” a senior official with the customs department (preventive) of the north zone said on condition of anonymity.

A huge jump from the Rs. 6 crore it made from gold sales in the 2010-11 fiscal.

And there is an added silver lining to this gold story. “The good part is that when the gold was seized, the rate was not that high but we are selling it at current rates and fetching a hefty price,” the official said.

No one had a clue what was inside the sealed parcels as they carried just the dates of their seizure, between 1954 and 1970, and no details whatsoever of the contents. They changed warehouses every time the customs department moved office in the last six decades. But their secret stayed intact all these years.

The customs department auctions off seized goods on a regular basis. But this was a dream financial year as the gold sale took its revenue to Rs. 188 crore.

“We were given the target of Rs. 120 crore but we crossed it by a big margin. Apart from  gold, several other items, including electronic and commercial goods, were sold,” the official said.


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