Customs Department officials claimed to have seized gold biscuits worth Rs 29 lakh from under the seat of a SpiceJet flight, which had arrived from Dubai on Saturday morning. Officials said eight gold biscuits that weighed 933.11 grams and are worth Rs 29,01,972, were taped carefully under the plane seat. “Each one of the 100-odd passengers and the crew are under the scanner,” an official said.
Mahesh Patil, deputy commissioner (Customs), Pune Airport, said: “The gold biscuits were wrapped in a black adhesive tape and stuck beneath the seat, near the life jacket slot.”
A source from the department said: “After almost a year, we have found and seized high-value gold, which was probably being smuggled from the Middle East. Earlier, in October 6, 2016, our official had recovered 1 kg gold, worth Rs 31 lakh, from underneath a seat in the same flight. We are exploring all angles.” On October 26, 2016, 10 gold bars, worth Rs 2.8 crore, were found inside the rear toilet of an aircraft, the source added.
At present, there are two flights between Dubai and Pune — one is operated by SpiceJet, the other by Air India. Some customs officials said they have observed a recent trend of hiding smuggled goods inside the toilets or under the seats of an aircraft, mostly those coming from Dubai and especially in the flights operated by a low-cost carrier.
An official said: “Generally, smuggled gold items are recovered from baggage or checked-in baggage of the passengers coming in flights from cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. However, recently, we have observed that smugglers were using other methods of hiding the items, inside toilets or under the seats. This new modus operandi also brings the crew under the scanner, as it would be difficult or almost impossible, to hide something in the aircraft without the knowledge of the crew.”