Rs. 167 Crore Gold Smuggling at Chennai Airport, Retail Store Linked

    Chennai Airport's retail store owner Mohammed Sabir Ali allegedly fronted a smuggling syndicate, aiding the smuggling of 267 kg of gold worth Rs. 167 crore.

    According to sources citing the customs department’s investigation, Mohammed Sabir Ali, the owner of the retail store Airhub at Chennai International Airport, was allegedly a front for a Sri Lankan gold smuggling syndicate. He received funding from an Abu Dhabi-based member of the syndicate because he lacked the funds to pay the Rs. 70 lakh deposit required to secure the lease.

    Customs Department Detains Store Owner and Seven Employees

    After discovering that Sabir Ali and seven of his staff members had assisted in the smuggling of 267 kg of gold valued at Rs 167 crore over the course of two months through the store housed in the airport’s departure lounge, Customs has already detained Ali.

    Vidvedaa PRG, the authorized concessionaire for renting out retail spaces in Chennai airport, had given Airhub the contract. According to a Vidvedaa insider, they promptly ended their contract with Airhub when the smuggling scheme was discovered.

    The syndicate hired and trained Ali and seven of his workers to smuggle gold donated by transit passengers to recipients outside the airport. Toys, purses, and souvenirs are sold in the store.

    According to sources, the syndicate reached out to Ali, a 29-year-old resident of Chennai, via his YouTube channel, shoppingboyz, offering him the opportunity to serve as their frontman for the smuggling of gold. The syndicate was the one who first suggested that he create a retail store after obtaining information on well-known ads that were published on billboards by Vidveda PRG.

    Investigation Reveals Store’s Role in Smuggling 267 kg of Gold

    According to sources referencing the inquiry, Sabir Ali had no prior retail expertise, but he was able to pay the deposit money that was supplied through middlemen thanks to the seed money provided by the gang through a Sri Lankan in Abu Dhabi.

    According to several sources, the store eventually opened sometime in February of this year. Via an internet employment portal, Sabir Ali hired his staff on a contract basis. Authorities from customs said that Sabir Ali and his staff at Airhub made around Rs 3 crore in commission during the previous two months.

    According to sources, the customs department is also looking into how the eight Airhub employees, who were simply contract workers and not listed with the airport concessionaire, were able to obtain identity cards issued by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). Airport regulations are broken, the sources continued.

    When TNIE called or left messages asking for a comment on the situation, the director of Chennai Airport did not answer.



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