Indian customs officials and Sri Lankan nationals spar over 'possession' of 7kg gold

Written By: Sidharth MP WION
Chennai Updated: Jun 14, 2022, 03:31 PM(IST)

Indian customs Officials and Sri Lankan nationals spar over 'possession' of 7kg gold Photograph:( WION )

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The Lankan passengers have stayed put at the Chennai airport since June 2nd, demanding that Air Customs officials return the gold bars (weighing 7kg) that was allegedly forcibly taken from them.

A 12-day long "battle for gold" between six Sri Lankan nationals and Air Customs Officials of the Chennai International Airport is expected to reach the Madras High Court. The Lankan passengers have stayed put at the Chennai airport since June 2nd, demanding that Air Customs officials return the gold bars (weighing 7kg) that was allegedly forcibly taken from them. According to the lawyer representing the Lankans, the six members are transit passengers (on a Dubai-Chennai-Colombo) route and have no Indian Visa. He adds that Indian Customs authorities have no jurisdiction to seize legally purchased gold that was to be taken to Colombo and meant to be declared before Lankan Customs. 

According to the Writ Petition shared by the Sri Lankan Nationals' counsel, S. Zahir Hussain, the Sri Lankan passengers had declared the 7kg of gold to Dubai Customs and had received acknowledgement for having purchased the same (based on purchase invoices). It adds that Indian Customs officials had forced the Sri Lankans back into the aircraft at Chennai airport and threatened them of arrest and then snatched nearly 7kg of gold bars from them, during the wee hours of June 2nd. 

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“Sharing the below declaration from #Dubai Customs, the SL nationals say that the Gold was meant to be taken to SL legally & Indian Customs has no jurisdiction with transit passengers Chennai Customs says gold was seized from flight in India, so Indian law applies”
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Later, on June 3rd the Office of Principal Commissioner of Customs, Chennai International Airport issued a statement on having recovered 60 gold bars weighing 9.02kg, valued at Rs.4.21 crore from the lavatory of Flight 6E-66 and from the arrival hall of the airport. It was mentioned that the Gold was seized under Customs Act, 1962.  

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“Chennai Air Customs recovered 9.02 Kgs of 24K purity Gold valued at Rs. 4.21 Crores from rummaging of Indigo Flight No.6E 66 dt.02.06.2022 arriving from Dubai and restroom of arrival area of Chennai International Airport. The same was seized under the Customs Act, 1962.”
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However, the petition counters the Customs authorities' claims as false and alleges that the 7kg Gold bars were not recovered from the lavatory but were forcibly taken from the Sri Lankans. The counsel representing the foreign nationals has also requested the Court to order the return of the Gold to the foreign nationals and to quash the Customs' claim of gold seizure, analyse CCTV footage of the incidents and also facilitate safe travel of the foreigners to their home country. 

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Speaking to WION, K.R.Uday Bhaskar, Principal Commissioner of Customs, Chennai International Airport, held firm that the gold was seized from the aircraft lavatory and that their press release was accurate in stating so. "There were about 30 International flights that landed on the said day and based on credible information, our officers recovered gold from this Dubai-Chennai flight 6E-66(on which the Lankan Nationals had flown). If a group of passengers say that the gold belongs to them, they can approach us and provide all necessary documents, get it investigated and follow due procedure to get it back" he said. He maintained that the Indian Customs had jurisdiction over the gold, as it was recovered from an aircraft that had landed on an Indian airport. 

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