Four individuals were detained for smuggling 1.375 kilograms of gold, including two ground handlers at Kochi Nedumbassery airport. Air India Air Transport Service Limited contract employees Vishnu and Abhilash were busted while assisting an Islamist gold smuggler, Muhammed Fasil. Fasil is a native of Muvattupuzha and brought the gold hidden in his undergarments from Dubai via an Air India flight.
Following a tip-off about the smuggling of gold, a team from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrived at the Kochi airport on Wednesday. Around noon, they apprehended Abhilash and Fasil while they were exchanging the gold in the restroom next to the arrival hall.
Later, when DRI thoroughly questioned Abhilash, Vishnu’s involvement became apparent. The airport staff was supposed to hand over the gold to a Kozhikode native waiting outside. Manorama News reported that all four were detained, including Rasal from Kozhikode.
The investigating team reported that the Muvattupuzha gang, which was detained for smuggling gold worth crores of rupees years ago, has reactivated. According to estimates, between 2015 and 2016, ground handlers and emigration authorities helped this gang smuggle over 2000 kilos of gold through Kochi airport. There are several such mafia gangs involved in this illicit trade.
During this period, the Customs special investigation team served 63 people with notices and detained 36 people in connection with smuggling charges. They were charged under the strict COFEPOSA Act (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act). At least nine airport employees, including immigration authorities, were imprisoned. Such moves curtailed their contraband business, but now they have regrouped.
The individuals detained in these cases were later freed and have apparently resumed their gold smuggling activities. On August 25, a Muvattupuzha local was arrested for trying to smuggle Saudi Riyals worth Rs 2.26 crore via Kochi Airport. Such smuggled monies are used to purchase gold from Gulf countries. After thoroughly questioning him, DRI officers gathered evidence proving the Muvattupuzha gang’s participation in this case.
Gold smuggling is a vicious circle that thrives when employees are not adequately vetted. Corrupt Customs officials, too, play a significant part in the racket. Such incidents prove that the Swapna Suresh gold smuggling saga which went right up to the CM’s office and involved a UAE consulate official too, was no one off. The rot runs deep, and the smuggling-terror nexus and criminal mafia is well entrenched in Kerala’s body politic.