Gold bars worth Rs29 lakh stuffed inside flier’s seat seized at Mumbai airport
In the third such case in a fortnight, unclaimed gold bars worth ₹29 lakh were recovered on Monday, from a passenger’s seat in an aircraft which landed in the city from Dubai.
Custom officials said the spate of such cases indicates that smugglers are concealing gold in places such as seats and toilets that are to be retrieved later.
“Officers recovered nine gold bars of foreign marking, collectively weighing 1,049 grams,” said V. Rama Mathew, commissioner of Customs, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).
The unclaimed gold bars were wrapped in cream coloured adhesive tapes and were concealed below the cushion of one passenger’s seat.
In all the recent cases, the gold has been wrapped in adhesive tapes. “We suspect that multiple gangs are operating using the same modus operandi,” said a senior officer.
Sources stated that a number of persons are involved in these rackets – from the flier who conceals the gold to the one who retrieves it. Authorities are investigating if any staffer was involved, whose job may have been to retrieve the gold.
In the past couple of years, authorities have found unclaimed gold in cotton bags kept inside the rear toilets of aircraft, life jacket pouches, tissue paper holders in aircraft toilets, below aircraft seats, immigration counter toilets, oxygen mask cavity of rear toilets in aircraft, among other locations.
The Customs have arrested loaders, cleaners, trolley-handlers and staffers of other units for their involvement in these crimes. Sources said passes given to staffers permit them to move around freely within the airport, and they do not need to go through a Customs checkpoint. This allows them to smuggle gold out of the airport through various ways, said sources.
There have been instances of fliers sticking bars of gold beneath their seats, which were later retrieved by a cleaner who put them in a dustbin. Once the bin was outside the airport premises, the gold bar was retrieved, sources said.