For the last two months, 30-year-old Sahansha had been desperately looking for an opportunity to return to his village in Rajasthan from Riyadh. He had landed in Abu Dhabi with high hopes, but had soon realised that he had been cheated on the pretext of a job.
Then he got an offer: He would get Rs 8,000 and a ticket to India, but would have to carry along a packet with a powdered fruit drink mixture. In reality, though, the packet contained 695 grams of gold — in the form of granules. Clueless, he landed in Delhi — only to be apprehended by Customs officials at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Tuesday.
The seizure is one of four cases at IGI airport in the past month of gold granules being found inside such packets. “Gold granules mixed with fruit drink powder are hard to detect. Smugglers mix them in a way that it’s impossible to spot it with the naked eye. But customs officials segregate the two powders using sieves of different sizes, and detect it in an X-ray scanner,” a senior official said.
Customs officials told The Indian Express that Sahansha was detained soon after he landed. “He initially claimed he was a businessman and was travelling abroad to promote his business, but officials went on to frisk his belongings. The gold granules were detected in an X-ray scanner. He kept complaining they are wasting their time, but after a few minutes, gold granules started pouring out from an orange packet,” an official said.
“Since February 10, four cases with the same modus operandi have been reported at the Delhi airport, and six arrests have been made. The ‘couriers’ were given free tickets and handed a packet of ‘orange-flavoured fruit drink mix’,” an officer said.
Officials said all of them were supposed to hand the packet to people waiting at the airport, who managed to escape.
In the three earlier busts, officials had recovered gold granules of 1,050 gms, 520 gms and 406 gms. “We also suspect the involvement of insiders,” a senior officer supervising the investigation said. Customs officers said that the new modus operandi has emerged as the old tricks are being detected with ease at the airport, forcing smugglers to become more creative.