Two lunch boxes hidden in the toilets of Jet Airways first triggered a bomb scare and then a smuggling probe as the tins were found to contain 12 gold bars each, a senior customs official in India said. Smuggling is on the rise into India, one of the world’s biggest buyers of gold, after the government raised import duty to a record 10% and slapped restrictions which have reduced supplies to the domestic market.
The Jet Airways plane arrived at Calcutta’s international airport from Patna on a domestic flight but normally operates between the gold trading hub of Dubai and Mumbai, home to India’s largest gold market. It was undergoing routine cleaning when maintenance staff discovered the two small tins. “There was a bomb scare immediately when the bags were spotted in two separate toilets at round 1 a.m., but later we found they contained 12 pieces of gold bars in each,” Additional Commissioner of Customs at the airport, Rameshwar Meena, told Reuters.
“The gold bars are from Dubai, for sure. The flight had come from Patna to Calcutta last, but its basic route is Dubai-Mumbai.” The bars weigh one kilogram and are about the same size as a portable smartphone. Meena said the haul was worth $1.18 million US. Customs officials said they had seized five cases of gold over two months involving a total of 100 kilograms of gold. “We feel that what we catch is less than 10% or so, and there are so many groups operating, it is impossible for us to keep a check,” said an official at the revenue intelligence department, who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
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