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Pleasure, thrill of Seizure of 600 gold bars

I had joined Mumbai Customs as a Preventive Officer in the year 1989.  After going through routine transfers, I was posted at RSR Unit of                Rummaging & Intelligence Wing  Preventive Commissionerate in the year 1997.

This Preventive Commissionerate had the history of excellent gold and drugs seizures and had put many notorious smugglers behind the bar.  During those days Mumbai Customs was active in preventing menace of gold and contraband smuggling and a cracking down smugglers throughout its jurisdiction. Preventive Commissionerate was also contributing by effecting occasional seizures of gold in Port. RSR unit where I was posted was mainly entrusted with keeping watch on port activities, sea patrolling, rummaging of arriving and outgoing vessels.   

So, during my posting  in RSR, our  Team was regularly rummaging the vessels arriving from sensitive ports however we were not getting gold . We were worried for not having gold seizure for long. We had conducted series of meetings on this aspect but nothing was working. However, when we all were seating in office in dejected mood, Shri Sashidharan, Superintendent,  from our team entered and announced he has gathered a specific information. This news revitalised our lethargic body and mind. Every officer was energised. Officer narrated the information. It was indeed a superb piece of information.

Specific information was that, a vessel from Singapore arriving on 26th Sep 1997 and having contraband Gold to smuggle in India and same will be handover to local fishing boat in high-sea. Though specific quantity was not given in information, it was expected to be big…. may be 200-300 gold bars. Gold getting smuggled into India by air, sea and land from the Middle East countries, Hong Kong, Singapore, Srilanka, Maldives, Pakistan and Nepal was not uncommon. Although the drive against smugglers was intensified, but criminal operator were seldom taking a chance .

Immediately, meeting was taken place and plan for working on the information was formed. Since, information was very specific that gold will be handed over to fishing boat in High sea, it was very much crucial to intercept the vessel before any fishing boat reaches near said vessel. Here, I would like to mention for readers who doesn’t know the exact meaning of ‘High Sea’. High sea is the area which is deep in open sea and generally its beyond territorial limits of country.

Since , operation was in high sea it was not possible to conduct with single boat or single team. Accordingly, we formed 3 Teams for 3 Departmental speed-boats. I was designated for the speed-boat #1 with my other colleagues. After putting good time for several months in sea patrolling and rummaging vessels we all were tested officers and were well versed with topography of coastal area and high seas. Our boat Tandels and boat staff had spent their long service period in conducting such search operations. Comparatively, I with just 8 years of service was new to such operation in high seas but I was young, energetic sports person with fit body. I clearly remember that day as if it has happened yesterday. It was monsoon season. September in Mumbai, one can imagine. It was raining heavily, weather was stormy and visibility was poor. It was high tide. Nature was against us but luck was with us. Big case was waiting for us.  

After getting the information that the suspected vessel is around 30 nautical miles away from the coast and heading towards the Mumbai port , all the Teams in their respective speed-boat started the operation in the night at 12 AM. The sea was very stormy and choppy and it’s raining heavily in the night. We were in touch with Control Tower Officials and were heading towards suspected vessel “MV SINAR TOBA”. Soon we got the glimpse of said vessel. We were having goosebumps. Said vessel was heading towards the port. We took our boat near “MV SINAR TOBA”.   I signalled the vessel to stop and drop the monkey ladder. I could read the minds of crew who had gathered at the vessel deck area . They were all surprised and in shock to see the search team at such odd hours. It was very difficult to board the vessel due to heavy rain and choppy sea in the darkness. Still I tried my best to get hold of the dropped hanging monkey ladder to board the vessel.  All of the sudden our speed-boat dash to the vessel just above my head, I was narrowly escaped from the jaws of the death. I  boarded the vessel and as per information reached to the area where concealment was reported . After thorough rummaging, concealment was detected. Gold bars. Not 50,100, 200, 400…..….I recovered 600 Gold bars of 10 tolas each, totally weighing 70 KG approximately.  I brought the vessel to the port for birthing and made a successful and one of the biggest seizure operations of 600-Gold bars by me, totally valued at Rs. 3.10 crore as per the cost in the year 1997.



25/01/2023 10:30:26 AM

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