KATHMANDU, Jan 7: Following the interception of 33.57 kg of gold smuggled through TIA customs, the Department of Customs under Ministry of Finance on Friday relieved 29 staff of their responsibilities until further notice.
The department has also initiated investigations into the huge seizure with the forming of a five-member probe panel under the coordination of Deputy Director General of the Department, Suman Dahal. The other members of the panel are Kulraj Jnawali, director and spokesperson of the department, Tanka Prasad Pandey, director at the department, Under-Secretary (Law) Shree Lal Paudel of Ministry of Finance and Punya Bikram Khadka, section officer at the department.
The department has authorized the panel to prepare its investigation report at the earliest. According to spokesperson Jnawali, the department has relieved the staff on duty at the time the smuggling is thought to have taken place, until the internal investigation is completed.
“We will figure out if the alleged smuggling was a setup involving any customs staff, of if there was negligence or lapses in the whole security system,” Jnawali said.
The department will interrogate the staff in question individually as per their respective roles, study CCTV footage and inspect other customs records. “We are collecting other relevant evidence with the support of police” he added.
Acting on intelligence provided by National Central Bureau Dubai, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police on Thursday intercepted 33.57 kg of ‘smuggled’ gold from Kathmandu as it was being taken to market following customs clearance at the airport.
Police arrested Gopal Bahadur Shahi, 43, of Nepalgunj-13, Dil Bandhu Thapa of Pathari-4 in Morang district and Santosh Kafle of Janakpur.
Meanwhile, CIB is also intensifying investigations to track the real owner of the gold, which was seized from the vehicles of the three arrested Thursday. “Based on preliminary information gained from the arrested, we have been trying to identify the real owner,” said SP Mira Chaudhary, CIB spokesperson.
According to her, CIB has completed recording the statements of the arrested.
The three have been charged with organized crime and remanded to police custody for five days.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi has instructed police and the customs department to intensify the investigations.