In a raid that lasted six hours,a joint team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Income Tax (Vigilance) wing seized 102 bags,each containing packets of gold,diamonds and cash,after it intercepted four trucks at Mumbai Central railway station on Monday night. The trucks were reportedly headed for Gujarat.
While agencies maintained that the consignment was suspicious,the citys angadia (courier) and bullion association met the Directorate General of Income Tax to register its protest,claiming the entire consignment was accounted for with proper bills.
The NIA claims that a few days ago,it received a tip-off about suspicious movement of large amount of Indian currency,expected to be routed through the legal bullion network that runs between Maharashtra and Gujarat. The intelligence hinted that the route would be used to distribute fake currency to the neighbouring state,said an official.
The trucks,escorted by wireless vehicles from VP Road police station,were stopped at the Mumbai Cental railway station compound at 9 pm on Monday. They were directed to the I-T office at Scindia House,Ballard Estate,where 102 bags were shifted to the second floor of the wing in the middle of the night.
Our probe is limited to the intelligence we received. We are usually concerned when there is a movement of large amount of money which is not accounted for. We will wait for I-T to finish its probe. Since we do not have a mandate to probe the money trail,we handed the entire consignment to I-T, said a senior NIA official.
There are a total of 102 bags,each of which have smaller packets containing cash,gold and diamonds. Each packet has labels with the names of the senders and recipients. We will verify these details. There are about 20-25 angadias who have approached us at our office. They transport such consignments of gold and diamond to Gujarat in this manner on a regular basis. If they are able to produce documents that show that the gold and diamonds are assets which are part of their business,we will release it to them. However,such large amounts of cash are not normally transported in this manner,as transfers can be done through cheques or banks. Therefore,it is most likely that the cash is unaccounted for,and will be seized in the case, said I-T Director General Swatantra Kumar.
Commenting on the angadia courier system,Kumar said,Such angadias transport gold and diamonds in this way as a regular affair,and there is nothing unusual about this. We received a tip-off from the NIA that a large volume of unnacounted cash would be sent to Gujarat along with the usual consignment of gold and diamonds,and therefore a raid was conducted. The NIA has not registered a counterfeit currency case as is being speculated.
When asked about the total value of the cash seized,Kumar said,There are RBI officials who are assisting us with ascertaining the exact value of the cash. We have also called in experts for the correct valuation of the gold and diamonds in the consignment. I cannot comment on how much cash has been seized as the process of ascertaining the amount is still underway.
Meanwhile the Mumbai Police have clarified that while they give routine security for such consignments,the valuation of the consignments is outside their scope.
Angadias send gold and diamond consignments to Gujarat on a daily basis. In the past,there were several instances in which these consignments became the target of robberies. In one such case,a murder was also committed. Following these cases,an association of angadias approached the Mumbai Police and sought assistance. So we have been providing security cover for these consignments from various police stations in the area. It is not part of our brief to find out what is being transported inside the packets, said DCP (Zone 2) Nisar Tamboli.
In 1987,a group of angadias was attacked by the Dawood Ibrahim gang. The diamond merchants association then approached the police for security. Their movement takes place twice a day,six days a week, said Rajendra Chavan,Senior Inspector,V P Road police station.