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Monday, June 21, 2021

Rich pickings for police as smugglers stash gold on Doha flights

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Gold bar
Photo for illustrative purposes only

Customs authorities in India seized 246 gold coins that had been hidden in the bathroom of a Qatar Airways aircraft at Amritsar airport this week, apparently by smugglers.

It is the second significant discovery of gold onboard one of the airline’s planes in India in the past two weeks.

On April 27, more than 7kg of gold jewelry was discovered in the toilet of another aircraft on arrival in Goa.

The 1.96kg stash of coins in Amritsar was valued by officials at Rs 5,700,000 (QR 309,861.)

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Customs Commissioner Capt Sanjay Gahlot said:

“Two packets were found hidden inside the rear toilet of the flight (QR 548) that landed from Doha on Wednesday. When the packets were opened, gold coins were found inside.”

Popular smuggling route

High import duties on gold in India and a newly introduced local sales tax there have made Doha’s lower gold prices tempting for potential smugglers.

Officials at Sree Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport in Amritsar have made four major gold seizures in the past two years, two of which involved finds of more than 5kg of the precious metal.

Gold coins
Photo for illustrative purposes only

According to the Hindustan Times, the gold is flown in from Dubai or Qatar, and is either hidden on aircraft for ground staff working with the smugglers to recover, or in the clothing of passengers or crew.

Last November, a Qatar Airways crew member was arrested in Ahmedabad for smuggling 1.17 kg of gold bars in his socks and trouser pockets.

The Times of India reported said that Huzefa Khuzem Mamuwala had successfully smuggled gold on four occasions “in connivance” with customs officials.

It added that three customs officials and another employee of Qatar Airways were being investigated as part of the case.

The national carrier has not yet responded to a request for comment on the issue.

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