Friday, October 22, 2021

Three Covid cell staff among eight who smuggled 47kg gold

Kochi: The Special Intelligence and Investigation Branch (SIIB) of the customs department in Kochi has busted a Kasaragod-based gang, which allegedly smuggled gold via the Kozhikode airport on 44 occasions this year. A total of 47.72kg of gold worth Rs 21.68 crore was smuggled with the assistance of health officials deployed at the airport as part of the state Covid surveillance team.

The SIIB team arrested Kasaragod natives Zainul Abid, Hashim B A, Puthur Mohammed Kunhi Abdulla, Mahamood A S, Sarfraz N A, Malappuram natives Navaf P, Naseef Ali and Anshif Mon T K in this regard on Wednesday. Navaf, Naseef and Anshif, who were part of the Covid surveillance team at the airport, reportedly helped the carriers bring the smuggled gold out of the airport. Zainul and Hashim were the masterminds behind the operation.

The incident came to light on April 2, 2021, after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) intercepted two persons at Kozhikode airport. The duo had named Naseef and Navaf who work at the airport as the persons to whom they handed over the gold. The staff were then apprehended by the agency and around 2kg of gold was found concealed in their innerwear. The case was later handed over to SIIB, Kochi, for further investigation. 

“It is learnt that 47.748kg of gold worth Rs 21.68 crore was smuggled across 44 occasions between February 4, 2021, and April 2, 2021. Probe has revealed that the health officials had abetted the smuggling by collecting the gold from carriers at one of the airport toilets, and then handing it over to the smugglers at the Hotel Haj House near the airport during lunch break,” an official said.

“On eac h occasion, the officials received Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 as remuneration,” an official said. The investigation team found that Naseef and Navaf received a total of Rs 4.76 lakh and Rs 6.59 lakh respectively as remuneration from Zainul. Whenever Navaf and Naseef were not on duty, Anshif collected the gold and handed it over to Navaf, for which he got a payment of Rs 50,000 each time.

22/10/21 Toby Antony/New Indian Express

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