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Chennai Customs officials come under scanner

Chennai Customs officials come under scanner

CHENNAI: A CBI team, consisting of 12 members, today raided the airport here in connection with alleged irregularities over smuggled gold that has been seized and not levying the correct duty on goods brought in by passengers.

According to sources, the CBI sleuths raided the Customs and airlines offices at the international terminal.

The raid, which begun around 1 am and continued for seven hours till 8 am, did not lead to the CBI finding any incriminating documents or arresting anybody. ‘It was a quiet operation as we were not even aware that a raid was on,’ said a policeman on duty at the airport.

But there was huge commotion after the CBI left the airport as senior Customs officials were seen flitting in and out of the airport.

The sources added that the raid must have been planned in the wee hours as international traffic is at its peak during this time.

It is alleged that some of the Customs officials might have been helping to smuggle goods through the airport and produced false accounting  regarding the seized gold.

Airport sources said the Customs team split into two groups – one group checked the passengers from a Singapore flight and the other searched the Customs office and other suspicious places at the airport.

In the past three months, foreign currency worth Rs 2.50 crore and gold weighing around 60 kg have been seized at the airport.

Smugglers use various techniques to carry the goods illegally, one of which is to keep the smuggled goods under the seat or in the lavatory of the international flight that will be used for domestic service and vice-versa. It is said the Customs officials help the smugglers get the same seat on these flights.

What happens to the seized gold? The confiscated illegal consignment of gold is despatched to the strong room of the Customs till the matter is forwarded to the adjudicating authority. Then a notice is issued to the person to submit his or her reply to the Customs. After the officer issues directives, a disposal order is issued by the seizing unit to the disposal department of Customs, and the disposal procedure commences.

The first major scam involving seized gold happened in Trichy airport in May 2015. A CBI raid found that 34 kg of seized gold that was stored in the Customs strongroom had gone missing and had been replaced by fake gold.