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Rs 7crore gold haul at airport

The gold bars seized at the airport

Customs officials seized 4.2 kg of gold worth more than Rs 7 crore from a passenger at Calcutta airport who allegedly passed on the bars to another person through a gap in a glass door on Wednesday.

Since last April, 62kg gold, valued around Rs 20 crore at the current rate, has been seized at the airport. Customs officials said the gold haul was the highest at any airport in the country during the period.

Kochi airport, with 55kg, comes a close second.

In the last fiscal, around 7kg of gold, valued at Rs 1.74 crore at the current rate, had been seized at Calcutta airport.

Officials said the passenger who allegedly passed on the gold bars was Dilip Kumar Rao, 32, a resident of the airport gate No. 2 area. The man who Rao allegedly passed the bars to has been identified as Prakash Kumar Balmiki, 21, a resident of the same locality.

Rao, officials said, had arrived on a private airline flight from Bangkok around midnight. “The passenger was walking towards the customs counter after collecting his luggage from the ground floor conveyor belt when he slipped two packets containing the bars to Balmiki through a gap in a glass door. The door was part of a glass partition separating the passenger area from the exit lounge where visitors can stand,” said an official.

Balmiki, who officials said had entered the lounge after buying a visitor’s entry ticket, allegedly started running towards the exit after getting the packets. “Our men chased and caught him near the gate. Rao, too, was caught,” said a customs official.

Both men have been arrested and the gold bars seized.

“Since April last year, we have seized 62 kg of gold at the airport, the highest in any airport in India,” said R.S. Meena, an assistant commissioner of customs.

He said the smuggling of gold increased after the import duties had been hiked last August.

Earlier, the import duty on gold was Rs 22,000 a kg. Now, a passenger has to pay 10 per cent of the value as customs duty and 3 per cent as cess — it works out to almost Rs 3 lakh a kg.

“The steep jump in the import duty has prompted many to smuggle gold. Calcutta is a popular stopover for gold smugglers because of its proximity to southeast Asia,” said a customs official.

According to an official, once the import duty was raised, there was an alert to strengthen vigil.

“With the gain as high as Rs 3 lakh a kg, it’s easy to get carriers,” said Kochi customs commissioner K.N. Raghavan.

Most of the gold seized at the Kochi airport in Kerala had been smuggled from Gulf countries, Raghavan said.

At the Calcutta airport, passengers had been caught over the last few months bringing in gold concealed inside LCD/LED TVs, torches and even inside the rectum.

The biggest haul since April was on November 19, when 12 gold bars, weighing around 24kg and worth at Rs 7.36 crore at the rate prevailing then, was found in two washrooms of a Jet Airways aircraft.

The bars were packed in small leather pouches in a flight that had arrived in Calcutta from Patna and was undergoing a scheduled check-up.