Man held at airport for smuggling gold hidden in dates
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Officials of the Customs Department have recovered gold hidden in dates from a man who landed at the Pune International Airport from Sharjah on Sunday morning. The suspect has been identified as Ismail Mohammed Faisal (21) of Kasargod in Kerala, who worked in Abu Dhabi. A team of Customs Department led by Deputy Commissioner M V Badari Prasad held Ismail at the airport over suspicion. The sleuths frisked him and put his bags under scanning machines. It was revealed that one of the bags carried small gold pieces.
During further checks, the sleuths found dates wrapped in a bag. It was found that seeds of these dates were replaced with gold beads wrapped in black packets. The gold beads weighing 409 grams are worth Rs 12.5 lakh.
Ismail's interrogation revealed that he wanted to deliver the gold beads to a man in Mumbai. Investigation is on to find out more about the Mumbai-based person and whether such transactions were done earlier.
Additional Commissioner of Customs Department Gopinath said smuggling gold in dates is a new modus operandi and a thorough investigation will be done to get to the root of the racket.
Meanwhile, there have been such incidents in the past where the Customs Department nabbed alleged gold smugglers at Pune airport, who had brought gold from the Middle East. In September, the department had recovered 1.27 kg gold from Asan Khan Jamalludin (26) of Mumbra, who worked in a chocolate factory in Dubai. He brought gold biscuits embedded in a hot plate used for preparing food. His relative Raja Sayyed Mehendi Khan, also from Mumbra, was later arrested. The duo had earlier allegedly smuggled gold from the Middle East to Mumbai via Ahmedabad.
Between October and December 2011, the Customs Department had arrested three garment dealers at Pune airport. One of them hailed from Kannur in Kerala and two belonged to Karnataka. Gold worth Rs 1.2 crore was seized from them. It is suspected that smugglers consider Pune airport a 'safer' transit due to tightened customs security at Mumbai airport. The possibility of the involvement of hawala racketeers and terror operatives in gold smuggling is also being probed.