In a major crackdown, the customs officials in Kerala seized roughly 123 kg of smuggled gold valued at around Rs 50 crore during raids at 23 premises in Kerala's Thrissur district, a top official said on Thursday.
The gold was confiscated during the raids conducted as part of an operation against a smuggling syndicate in the state, Customs Commissioner (Preventive) Sumit Kumar told PTI.
The smugglers allegedly sourced gold from various cities of Tamil Nadu and the yellow metal was smuggled to Thrissur through the land route as the city does not have connectivity by either air or sea.
He said 17 people allegedly associated with the smuggling rackets were caught by the officials who struck the spot, where the smuggled gold was brought. Two vehicles used for committing the crime were seized, Mr Kumar said.
Out of the 17 detained, 15 were carriers and two were receivers of the smuggled gold. The operation which began in the early hours of Wednesday in Thrissur is still underway, he noted.
"We've got about 123 kg of gold. We also got Rs 2 crore Indian currency and USD 9,000 during the targeted searches at 23 premises. 17 couriers are presently being interrogated. The total value of the seizures is Rs 50 crores."
This is the largest seizure in Kerala, Mr Kumar said. According to him, the smuggling team is based in various cities of Tamil Nadu including Trichy, Chennai and Coimbatore. "We have also collected huge amount of evidences. We are trying to identify the Madras based supply groups which are the suppliers of the illegal gold," the official said.
"Right now, 17 people are being interrogated. We will question more than 100 people. It will take five days to finish the preliminary recordings," he said.
He said the operation to understand the flow of gold to Thrissur had started one year back. Initially, a very small team was formed to collect the active intelligence.
"Nod was given end of July this year. Our officers managed to identify the couriers and their modus operandi in smuggling gold. They were delivering it to certain residences in Thrissur. The gold was processed at these residences and further transmitted out," Mr Kumar said.
He said 23 premises were searched and 13 separate teams are taking statements of the people detained. "After that the decision will be taken on the people to be arrested", he said.