KATHMANDU, Jan 6: Based on the intelligence provided by the global police, Interpol, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police on Thursday intercepted 33 kg of 'smuggled' gold from Pinglasthan of Kathmandu after the valuables were being taken to the market following customs clearance at the Tribhuvan International Airport.
A police squad of CIB with the support of Metropolitan Police Circle, Gaushala, also arrested three persons for their alleged involvement in illegally possessing such a large amount of gold. The seizure is considered to be one of the biggest ever incidents after clearing customs from the TIA.
The incident also leaves adequate space to suspect the involvement of customs officers in the crime.
The arrested have been identified as Gopal Bahadur Shahi, 43, of Nepalgunj-13 of Banke district, Dil Bandhu Thapa of Pathari-4 of Morang district and Santosh Kafle of Janakpur, Dhanusha.
The seized gold was in the form of 282 gold biscuits, each of them weighing 10 tolas; 19 rings and 18 chains and was craftily hidden in the false bottom of suitcases.
“We are interrogating on how the smugglers were able to cheat the customs officials,” CIB Director DIG Nawaraj Silwal said.
DIG Silwal also said that they were trying to identify the real owner of the gold smuggled to Nepal via a Gulf country.
Based on the information provided by Interpol, the police arrested the three while they were heading to their destination after receiving two luggages that arrived via Air Arabia flight from Dubai on Thursday. It has been learnt that the main carrier of the contraband gold, Gopal Bahadur Shahi, had arrived in Kathmandu on Wednesday without any luggage.
According to SP Mira Chaudhary, who led the operation, the police had followed Shahi ever since he landed in Kathmandu.
“After Shahi along with two accomplices reached the TIA, received the luggages containing the illegal gold and were on their way back to their destination separately on a private car and a taxi, we intercepted them on the midway,” she said.
Police investigators assume that the customs clearance was not possible without the 'involvement' of the customs officials. But, the Department of Customs denounced the assumption and said that they were investigating the case very seriously.
“We have intensified interrogating the customs officials on duty at the time of the arrival of the flight. If anyone is found guilty, we will take stern action against them,” said Sishir Kumar Dhungana, the director general of the Department of Customs. “But we still doubt if the gold was smuggled via air route,” he added.
Nepal Police in 2013 had seized 35 kg of gold from the TIA bound for India. The gold had arrived in Nepal from Dubai in an Air Arabia flight.
Nepal Police data show that the law enforcement authorities have confiscated about 345.82 kg of gold in the last four years, including 61.82 kg in the last fiscal year 2015/016 only. The seizure of illicit gold in the fiscal year 2012/013 was 83 kg while it stood at 90 kg in 2013/014 and 111 kg in 2014/015.
Despite the efforts of police to curb gold smuggling, the rate of seizure of illegal gold had been declining in the recent years as scant incentives have failed to impress the informants, according to the police.
Earlier, the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) used to provide 25 percent of the total worth of seized gold as incentive to the informants and law enforcement officials.
But, under the revised provisions related to incentives, a ceiling of Rs 500,000 to 1.5 million as incentives was enforced even if the seizure was of huge quantity.