Now, educated women for smuggling gold

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DRI questions Customs officials for abetment

A beauty parlour in Dubai was reportedly the recruiting front for the international racket that hired women as carriers to smuggle gold into Kerala with impunity through the Thiruvananthapuram international airport here for over a year.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) told a court here on Friday that the “smuggling syndicate” had brought in “enormous quantities of gold” into the country by employing “passenger carriers”. The kingpins of the racket were at large. The “deep-rooted conspiracy” warranted a detailed investigation.

Investigators said the racketeers employed educated and articulate women to fox Customs enforcers. They included a lawyer, a fashion designer, trained cosmeticians, salespersons, cashiers, and office workers. The parlour owner headed the “female smuggling ring”, and she had recruited its members. The DRI has so far arrested three of them.

Investigators said the beautician had persuaded the women to smuggle the gold by pitching the job as a part-time task and easy way to earn extra cash and cover their airfare.

Colour codes

The kingpins promised the women safe passage at the airport. They carried the contraband gold openly in their hand baggage and breezed through the Customs checkposts unchallenged. The consignments weighed 4 kg to 25 kg. The carriers used colour codes as a means of identification, and they had inside help.

The personal journal maintained by one of the accused has helped the DRI shape the contours of their investigation. A diary, seized from her home, revealed the minutiae of her roundabout trips to Dubai, her contacts and places of stay, and the precise date and time of the return journey to Thiruvananthapuram.

Investigators said the diary along with travel manifests has helped them identify the Customs officials who abetted the smuggling. They have questioned at least three of the suspect officers and inspected their homes. On Friday, the agency registered the statement of a woman suspect who has agreed to cooperate with the agency.

The DRI had dismantled a part of the network on Monday with the seizure of 25 kg of gold from two passengers at the airport here.

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