All that glitters is not gold, customs officials at Delhi’s international airport will tell you.
A rich haul of contraband gold seized from smugglers flying into the airport was giving the customs department a headache because their warehouse has been compromised and thieves were replacing the precious metal with fakes.
Customs officials posted at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) had done a commendable job with some of biggest hauls when gold smuggling — owing to some tight domestic regulations — reached an all-time high in the 2014-15 fiscal. The haul for that year: a mind-blowing 574kg.
Their warehouse now contains more than 1,000 kg of gold worth at least Rs 300 crore.
Sources said about 24kg of gold worth Rs 7 crore was stolen from the warehouse, where only authorised customs personnel were allowed to enter, and replaced with cheap metal imitations.
“Gold seized since 1980s has been kept at the warehouse which didn’t have proper security arrangement. Definitely it is done by some insider and to keep a check we are installing CCTV cameras. In most cases, we found the gold has been replaced with some yellow metal. Someone cleverly made the swap,” said a senior customs official, rattled by the thefts.
Saddled with a series of thefts and a “leaky” vault, customs authorities have increased security in and around the warehouse, including multiple CCTV cameras to keep track of movements of their own staff.
The thefts were discovered in April 2014 when a man returned 22 years after he was caught with gold at the airport to claim it with court permission. It was found that his consignment was missing from the warehouse.
A thorough check revealed more much cases. “A few more packets were opened and till now we have reported about four cases to police,” said an official.
Delhi Police have a tough task in hand without a lead on when the stored gold was stolen.
Till August this year, customs officials have arrested 100 people and registered 169 cases for gold smuggling. As much as 293kg of gold valued at Rs 76 crore was seized.