Gold bars hidden in solar panels
12:00 AM, March 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:39 AM, March 14, 2019

Gold bars hidden in solar panels

Two Chinese nationals held at Dhaka airport with 5.5kg gold

To the naked eye, the two items are just rechargeable solar home systems, costing only a couple of thousands.

In reality, their value is in the crores.

Customs officials at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport yesterday seized the two “home appliances” from two Chinese nationals.

Once taken safely away from the airport, the appliances would have been dismantled to recover the 5.5 kilograms of gold stowed in them.

The gold would command a market value of an astonishing amount of more than Tk2.5 crore.

Customs officials throttled the attempt by detaining the two -- Chen Jifa, 29, and Ding Shousheng, 35, -- and recovering 48 gold bars after breaking the specially-made chambers in the devices with a hammer.

The Chinese nationals landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 11:30am from a middle-eastern country and disembarked after all the other passengers had gotten off the plane.

Having received secret information on the matter, officials of customs preventive team remained ready and stopped them for questioning in the green channel.

“We met with a strong denial at the airport's green channel when we asked them whether they were carrying any taxable items,” Othello Chowdhury, deputy commissioner of customs told The Daily Star. 

But the baggage scanner revealed the two appliances inside their luggage.

 “As we attempted to open it up, they even were warning us of compensation for damaging their goods,” Othello said.

An official then broke the appliances using a hammer and found the gold bars hidden inside, he said. 

The two Chinese nationals had gotten on-arrival visas at the airport after showing two separate invitation letters from two Gulshan-based garment traders.

According to the letters, both the detainees had come to Bangladesh to attend an “important meeting” over exporting goods from the two traders.

The phone numbers mentioned in the invitation letter were found to be switched off.

Customs officials suspected that the invitation letters were fakes and meant for smuggling the gold safely. 

According to the detainees' passports, Jifa visited Bangladesh four times in 2019, while yesterday was Ding's first visit here.

“They did not say anything or reply to any query in custody,” said a customs official.

Arrest of foreigners with gold at Dhaka Airport is nothing new. Customs and Customs Intelligence officials earlier arrested citizens of China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, India and several African countries with gold and fake foreign currencies.

Filing of two separate cases under the Customs Act and Special Powers Act is underway.

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