Indian intelligence officials have admitted aircraft staff are being asked to watch out for passengers who spend longer than normal in the bathroom mid-air after gold bullion was discovered hidden in the toilet.
Two lunch boxes secreted in the toilets of an airplane initially triggered a bomb scare but after they were found to contain 12 gold bars, experts now believe they were left behind by smugglers.
Found by cleaners
The bullion was initially discovered by cleaners during routine maintenance who found the two suspicious lunch boxes hidden in the bathroom of the airplane.
Don’t spend too long in the toilet when on a plane
After the two small tins were spotted, a possible bomb alert was raised but was quickly dismissed when the hidden cargo was found to contain no less than 12 gold bars in each box, a total of 24 pieces of bullion. Each of the bars weighs 1 kg each – around the size of a mobile phone – which means the total haul is being valued at around £730,000.
The Jet Airways flight was running between two domestic destinations – Kolkata and Patna – but experts believe the haul was left behind by smugglers operating from a different location.
The same airplane which the bullion was found on normally runs between the trading hub of Dubai and Mumbai in India, the largest gold market in India. Officials are therefore investigating the possibility of them being left behind by smugglers heading out of Dubai and are currently checking all the profiles of passengers who flew out of the destination.
Smuggling of bullion is becoming an increasing problem for India. The country is one of the largest importers of gold in the world but earlier this month raised import taxes on the commodity to a record 10%, hitting inward supplies.
The finance minister for India, P.Chidambaram admitted that the hike in gold import taxes had increased the incidences of smuggling slightly but insisted the necessary measures were in place to stop any significant hauls. The minister told CNBC TV18 that there was no chance any smuggler could bring in more than 5kg of gold and remain undetected.
Smuggling gold into India is becoming a big problem due to taxes
Customs officials have confirmed that in the last two months alone five cases of gold smuggling had been prevented, with a total haul of 100 kg of gold caught.
However, an anonymous source from the revenue intelligence office who asked not to be named as they were not supposed to speak to the media said that the real story is very different to the situation being described publicly.
The unnamed official said it was ‘impossible’ for them to keep up with smugglers and said that they believe only around 10% of smugglers are caught. With so many groups operating increasingly sophisticated scams, the official said the revenue intelligence department simply can’t keep up.
Timing passengers in the toilet
A previous case of attempted gold smuggling had been thwarted after gold was once again left in the toilet. One individual left the gold in the toilet of a plane in Mumbai, whilst the next courier retrieved it during an onward flight to Goa.
As a result of this and the latest discovery, the anonymous source from the revenue intelligence department admitted airline staff are being asked to keep an eye on how long passengers spend in the toilet.
Any individual thought to be spending longer than normal in the bathroom could face being reported to revenue intelligence by airline staff.