In simultaneous raids in Thrissur, the Kochi-based Commissionerate of Customs (Preventive) Unit seized 124 kg of gold, valued at ₹50 crore, being smuggled into Kerala, foreseeing a bumper sale during Akshaya Trithiya and Deepavali.
Raids were conducted from morning to late in the night on Wednesday at various places in district, considered the gold hub of the State. Raids were held on 25 houses at Cherpu and Vallachira, where small and big manufacturing units are functioning. Around 30 kg gold was seized from a house.
Customs officials reportedly got information that the units make ornaments with smuggled gold and distribute it to various places in the State and outside.
Role of mafia suspected
They suspect role of a mafia behind the gold smuggling, manufacturing, and distribution network.
Gold reaches Thrissur mainly from Chennai and Tiruchirappalli.
Commissioner of Customs Sumit Kumar said the seizure was the largest ever in Kerala and one of the largest in India this year.
He said ₹2 crore in cash and $1,900 were also seized in the operation. He said 12 of the 17 detained people had been arrested. The operation was carried out on Wednesday by a 177-strong force, led by two joint commissioners. GST and Central Excise officials were also in the raiding team.
The personnel launched the strike at bus stands, railway stations, and a few buildings based on intelligence gathered since July about evasion of 12.5% customs duty. The Additional Director General of GST too pooled in with information, Mr. Sumit Kumar told The Hindu.
Personnel use force
Much of the gold in 23 premises was hidden beneath the floor or within air-conditioners.
Personnel had to use force in some instances. In a rarity in Kerala, the personnel also carried weapons such as revolvers and pistols to fend off a possible attack.
Citing the rationale for the raids, he said officials noticed no apparent increase in quantum of gold sourced through legal means despite an increase in sale of gold.
While 21 kg of gold was seized from carriers, 102 kg of the metal as seized from different premises in Thrissur, apart from two four-wheelers.