Businessman Harnek Singh owns a fleet of 11 expensive cars. Porsche, Mini Cooper, BMW and more. And he has three big apartments and a large factory that manufactures appliances for poultry farms. Also, he frequently goes abroad — for business and leisure.
But all that may not be as good as gold.
Singh was arrested last weekend for allegedly smuggling more than 300kg of gold bars into the country over the past two years. That’s Rs 90 crore in the bullion market.
Officials of the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) confiscated 44kg of gold, concealed in rod-type poultry incubators and trucked in a container from the port of Mundra in Gujarat to Singh’s factory in the national capital.
Singh allegedly operates with his brother-in-law in Dubai and uses the shady hawala network to transfer money, bypassing banking channels and leaving no paper trail.
He doesn’t use flights, the preferred transport for gold smugglers, because the risk of getting caught at airports is high. He sticks to the time-tested formula of the 1970s — ship the merchandise on merchant vessels.
The modus operandi was simple: Singh buys a single incubator and a few other devices such as disassembled poultry egg brooder panels from dealers in Dubai. His brother sends the consignment, hiding around 50kg of gold bars in the metallic case of the incubator.
The gold bars are wrapped in a thick silver-grey paper smeared in adhesive to prevent the metals from making any clanking noise that could raise suspicion.
Investigators said they found proof of the smuggling racket and hawala transactions to Dubai during searches at his home and factory.
“The consignments were dispatched at least twice a month and only Singh and his brother-in-law knew about them. The truck carrying the consignment goes to Delhi’s Chander Vihar area where Singh owns a factory. He sold the gold to traders in Karol Bagh,” DRI officer Rabindra Kumar said.
The DRI’s Delhi unit recovered WhatsApp messages between Singh and his relative that confirms the racket, which allegedly smuggled gold into India at least 24 times in two years. “We have been tracking this person for a long time,” the officer said.
The brother-in-law will be summoned through the Indian embassy in Dubai. Traders in Karol Bagh will be questioned too.
Sources said Singh invested just a fraction of his income in New Delhi. There’s much, much more than the Porsche, the BMWs and the houses.