Seized gold missing from IGI airport

New Delhi:. Over 24 kg of gold lodged at Indira Gandhi International Airport by the customs department has disappeared, the latest discovery of such a loss taking place on Tuesday when a chunk of the confiscated contraband was found missing.

According to officials, during a formal proceeding carried out by inventory inspectors on Tuesday, some doubts arose about the weight of a sealed packet purportedly containing 1.27 kg of gold wrapped in a white cloth. The seal of Air Customs on it was intact. “The packet details mentioned it was seized on July 24, 1989, from one Ibrahim Haniffa,” said a senior customs officer. “The packet was cut open and to the surprise of the officers, they found only a slab of about 500 grams instead of over a kilo of the metal,” said a senior officer.

An FIR was registered by the customs department on Wednesday. “In most of the cases where gold has gone missing, the precious metal was replaced by a yellow metal,” said Dinesh Kumar Gupta, DCP (IGI). “We have sent a notice to the customs department asking for a list of officers who have been custodians of the vault in the past 20 years. These officers will be asked to join the probe.”

The latest loss has taken the total amount of gold missing from the vault to more than 24 kg, estimated to be worth over Rs 7 crore. In June last year, the customs officials reported to the police the disappearance of 11 kg of gold, then valued at Rs 2.92 crore, from the vault.

A year earlier too, an FIR had been lodged after the customs realised that in a series of thefts the gold had been replaced with a metal that on analysis showed it wasn’t gold. According to police sources, the customs department had reported theft of gold on January 16 and 20, April 30 and December 23 in 2014.

These incidents have put the customs officers under the scanner because they are in charge of the safety arrangements at the vault. According to airport security officers, no one apart from customs personnel are allowed to enter the vault area.

“The role of insiders cannot be ruled out,” conceded a senior custom official. An internal inquiry is being held to determine how the gold was being siphoned off.

According to the cops, the gold kept at the vault had been seized in 10 separate cases from passengers who had allegedly been trying to smuggle it past the Delhi international airport between 1989 and 2000.