Seized gold yet to be melted to determine exact quantityMint Division says DRI has yet to make a written request.
The gross weight of the smuggled gold seized last week was found to be 155 kilograms, which included motorcycle brake shoes and electric shavers.
However, the actual quantity of gold is yet to be weighed by the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI), which had seized the smuggled gold on July 18. The department is yet to ask the Nepal Rastra Bank to determine the actual weight of the gold.
As many as eight cartons containing the smuggled gold, which had passed the airport customs undetected, were seized from a taxi cab at Sinamangal, a location close to the Tribhuvan International Airport.
The seized gold in sealed cartons was brought to the Mint Division of the Nepal Rastra Bank for weighing and the gross weight of the consignment seized was determined to be 155kg.
“We have not yet started melting the gold to determine the actual gold content, because we have not yet received a written request from the DRI,” said Thaneshwar Acharya, director at the Mint Division of the central bank.
He said that the seized gold is in wax-sealed packages and they have not been opened yet. The smugglers had stashed the gold among other metal items to pass them off as regular merchandise. “We can conclude the melting process within a week, once we start the work,” said Acharya.
When asked about it, Nawaraj Adhikari, information officer at the DRI said he was unaware why DRI didn't ask to determine the exact volume of gold seized. "This may have taken a backseat as first priority has been given to take statements from those arrested." he said. "Officers involved in the investigation should also be present during the melting process."
The latest seizure suggests that the Tribhuvan International Airport continues to be the gateway for large-scale smuggling of gold. In 2017, authorities had busted a smuggling case involving 33 kg of gold, but the gold remains missing.
In the latest bust, six people allegedly associated with the smuggling were arrested on July 18. Subsequently, more people including customs staff and customs agents were arrested. So far, the DRI has kept 16 people connected to the smuggling of the gold in its custody for investigation.
Officials at the DRI said that they are currently recording the statements of the suspects.
Likewise, six additional metal packets are also being examined for possible smuggling of gold, according to DRI officials. Some of the packets belong to Ready Trade Private Limited.
"All six metal packets were opened and examination is underway to determine whether there is presence of gold," said Adhikari of DRI.
Officials and experts say that the non-detection of large quantities of smuggled gold hints at a collusion among the smugglers, customs officials and others at the top level.
“Collusion is an obvious possibility,” former deputy inspector general of Nepal Police Hemanta Malla Thakuri told the Post, previously. “The condition of the customs infrastructure, including X-ray machines and competence of human resources at the customs office at the TIA are other factors to be considered during the investigation.”
Since the seizure of gold last week, the Department of Customs has also initiated its own investigation to find out the lapses in the customs clearance process. It has suspended two of its staff who were involved in the customs clearance process.
The actual motive behind the smuggling of gold has not been known yet. "statements of those arrested are being taken. Maybe they would reveal actual beneficiaries of smuggled gold and where the gold was supposed to reach, " said Adhikari.