DRI suspects gold smuggling even in earlier metal importsReady Trade Pvt Ltd, one of the firms suspected in the smuggling of seized gold, had imported nearly two tonnes of goods in the two months prior to July 18.
The Department of Revenue Investigation suspects that even the motorcycle brake shoes that the Ready Trade Pvt Ltd imported before its consignments that were seized on July 18 for smuggled gold also contained the precious metal.
On Wednesday, the DRI raided the warehouse of Ready Trade at Sorhakhutte, Kathmandu and seized 66 boxes of motorcycle brake shoes.
According to data from the Department of Customs, the Ready Trade imported consignments weighing at least 1,997 kgs from Hong Kong prior to July 18.
“The test of 66 boxes packing the motorcycle brake shoes showed no presence of gold with the Customs Department reporting that only iron was primarily found in them,” said Nawaraj Adhikari, information officer at the DRI. “But what is suspicious is the total weight of those boxes is significantly lower than similar boxes seized on July 18 that contained smuggled gold.”
According to Adhikari, boxes recovered during the raid weighed just around 500gm each compared to around 745gm weight of the boxes seized on July 18. “Boxes are of similar size and motorcycle brake shoes have been arranged in a similar pattern but weight is different. This indicates that something has been removed from the boxes,” he said.
The DRI had also seized gold weighing and melting machines alongside the boxes full of motorcycle brake shoes. “This also indicates that gold might have been present in those boxes,” said Adhikari.
According to the DRI, each box had 10 packets and each packet had two sets of the motorcycle brake shoes. Besides conducting raids in the warehouse, the DRI on Wednesday had raided the residence of a trader Rajesh Kumar Addukiya, who is now believed to have left the country.
Punya Bikram Khadka, information officer at the Department of Customs, on Thursday told the Post that Addukiya’s suspicious travel history to India, Hong Kong and Kathmandu over the past three months gave investigating officials some clues that he might be one of the players behind the gold smuggling case.
Though the DRI has so far arrested 17 people connected with gold smuggling, it is yet to confirm who the beneficiary owner of the smuggled gold is. Dilip Bhujel, 21, who is legal owner of the Ready Trade Pvt Ltd, is reported to be just a daily wage worker hailing from Melung Rural Municipality-1, Dolakha.
There is a tradition of those involved in smuggling goods to register firms in the name of ignorant people by luring them with some benefits. “Nobody is immune to the law just because he or she does not know about it,” said Adhikari. “As the investigating officers are also taking statements from those arrested, we can find the beneficiary owners of the smuggled gold.”
Adhikari said it was also not clear where the gold is supposed to be shipped inside Nepal or outside. In the past, it was believed that gold was smuggled into Nepal to be sold in India—one of the largest markets for the precious metal in the world.
On July 18, the DRI had confiscated the gold concealed in motorcycle brake shoes from Singamangal, outside the international airport. The consignment was being taken away in a taxi after getting customs clearances from the airport.
The gross weight of the smuggled gold was ascertained to be 155 kilograms, which also included electric shavers, according to officials at the mint division of the Nepal Rastra Bank, which has been entrusted with examining the metal.
The DRI is yet to ask the central bank to melt the mix to determine the exact weight of the gold component. Meanwhile, the Department of Customs has sent a letter to the Hong Kong customs seeking details of the consignment of over a quintal of gold smuggled into Kathmandu.
“We have made correspondence with the Hong Kong customs, seeking details of the party that had sent the gold from there illegally,” Shovakant Poudel, director general of the department, told the Post on Thursday.
“A separate team from the customs department headed by Man Bahadur Paudel is also looking into how motorcycle brake shoes containing gold got through the customs.”