Siliguri, June 24: Forty gold bars weighing 14.54kg and worth Rs 3.94 crore, were found stuffed in the hollow metal handles of trolley bags belonging to four persons at the NJP railway station.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) suspects the gold bars were smuggled into India from Myanmar.
The four persons, who have been arrested, had boarded the Dibrugarh-Howrah Kamrup express in Guwahati. A couple from Bihar, their 17-year-old daughter and a man from Dum Dum, Calcutta, were caught at NJP with the four trolley bags.
A senior DRI official said: “They had done it (hiding the gold) quite cleverly. The gold was in the form of 40 small bars. Each was wrapped in a carbon paper that was then stuck with black tape. After the packing, the bars were stuffed in the trolley’s handles, which are hollow. We detached the handles from the trolleys and found all the gold bars.”
The bars are between 350gm and 370gm in weight.
The Bihar couple and the Calcutta resident have been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. The girl’s custody has been given to the juvenile justice board as she is a minor.
DRI sources said the agency had a tip-off on the possible arrival of smuggled gold on the Kamrup Express. DRI officials said there were 40 bars, which together weighed 14.54kg. The total value of the gold would be Rs 3.94 crore, according to the price of 24 carat gold in Calcutta today.
A DRI official in Calcutta said: “This is the biggest seizure in the recent past.”
Some DRI officials in Calcutta said that gold was procured from Dubai and Bangkok because it is cheaper there than in India. It is smuggled in through Myanmar.
“By smuggling in the gold, the criminals do not have to pay duty. In addition, they buy the gold at a cheaper price,” the DRI official said.
The officials added that the gold was smuggled in from Myanmar because it is easier to get it in through the border that Assam and Manipur share with that country, especially because of the presence of Shan and Kachin rebels in Mynamar who are also involved in smuggling.
Ratan Banik, a lawyer for the DRI, said the gold was on the way to Calcutta to be sold.
“The DRI had prior information that the gold was being smuggled to Calcutta and raided the train around 8pm yesterday. They took into custody four passengers. Each of them was carrying a trolley bag,” Banik said.
Three of the arrested were identified as Vijay Kumar, 42, his wife Chandana Devi, 40, and Prahlad Soni, 43, a resident of Dumdum in Calcutta.
Along with them was Vijay and Chandana’s daughter, who has not been named as she is a minor. The family hails from Rohtas district, Bihar.
Banik said that during the interrogation, the four told DRI officers that they were carrying smuggled gold that they had been given in Guwahati.
“They also said the gold had been brought illegally from Myanmar and they intended to sell it in Calcutta,” said the lawyer.
At first, when the DRI sleuths opened the bags, they only found garments. But the accused told them that the gold was stuffed in the metal handles of the bags.
The DRI suspects the four worked for an organised racket.
The Bihar couple and Prahlad were charged under Section 135 (evasion of duty or prohibitions by carrying any goods) of the Customs Act.