Kochi/Malappuram: The CBI has begun a preliminary probe into the arrest of Customs Superintendent at the Karipur Airport P Muniyappa while handing over smuggled-in gold to two passengers outside the airport.
Based on the preliminary inquiry report, a decision will be taken by the CBI whether to register a case against him.
The Kochi CBI unit is currently taking follow-up actions based on the report of the Malappuram Superintendent of Police in the matter.
This was for the first time that such a high ranking Customs Department official was directly involved in the smuggling of gold. This has led to the prompt taking up of preliminary investigation by the CBI.
In the preliminary investigation, the CBI is assessing Muniyappa's involvement in the gold smuggling, the source of cash and other valuables seized from him, and the details regarding the passports of passengers seized from his residence.
A day before the arrest, Muniyappa was in-charge of screening the baggage of passengers using X-ray images at the airport. But he could not give a convincing reply when questions were asked over why he allowed the smooth passage of some of the bags without checking on the day. But later, he landed in the police net with smuggled goods.
At a parallel level, two investigations __ the routine investigation by the Customs Department and another inquiry by the Vigilance wing attached to the Customs headquarters __ are going on.
Muniyappa was arrested on Thursday early morning when he tried to hand over the smuggled-in goods of 320 gm of gold and a cash of Rs.25000 to two persons hailing from Kasaragod outside the Karipur Airport. The goods were brought by the natives of Kasaragod in the Dubai flight that landed at the airport at 2.15 a.m.
Later, the police party, in a raid, seized a cash of Rs.442,980, 500 UAE dirhams and a number of passports of various flight passengers from Muniyappa's residence.
The investigating agencies have taken a serious view of the unearthing of passports of passengers from the custody of a Customs Superintendent.
No arrest for Muniyappa
As per the new rule, only those who smuggled-in gold valued more than Rs.50 lakh would be arrested.
Earlier, this limit was Rs.20 lakh. But from August 16, this limit was raised to Rs.50 lakh.
Any smuggled gold below the value of Rs.50 lakh can only be impounded. If the person caught is involved in any other major smuggling cases, then the investigating agencies can slap other stringent sections of law dealing with smuggling.
In Muniyappa's case, the seized gold was valued only at Rs.16 lakh. Hence, he will not be arrested. The seized gold will be impounded and a fine will be slapped on him.