In what could turn out to be the biggest seizure this election season, the Static Surveillance Team (SST) of the Election Commission intercepted three vans carrying close to 1,400kg of gold near Vepampattu in Tiruvallur district on Wednesday evening.
According to sources, the members of the SST B-Team headed by S. Chellapandi in Poonamallee was keeping watch near Vepampattu when they spotted three vans with nearly 10 armed guards passing by. They intercepted the vehicles and found 56 boxes containing nearly 22kg gold in each of them.
“In one vehicle there were 30 boxes and in another there were 26. The third one was a back-up vehicle,” said a police source. The boxes were sealed and had British Airways stickers on them. During investigation, the staff who were in the vehicles claimed that the gold was imported from Switzerland by the Punjab National Bank.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) had deposited the gold with the SBI and Punjab National Bank. The scheme involves return of the gold to the Devasthanams, along with interest which is also paid in gold. On maturity of one of the schemes, nearly 1,400kg of gold bars were being transported from Chennai by PNB to be handed over to the TTD, when the vehicles were stopped by the special team, sources said.
The vehicle was seized and taken to the Poonamalee Block Development Office. “The District Collector has been informed about the incident. Though there are some documents, the authenticity will be confirmed only after thorough investigation,” said a senior police officer.
“We came to know about the seizure from the media. The bank officials are learnt to be on the task of getting the gold released by offering necessary explanation and producing relevant documents,” TTD Executive Officer A.K. Singhal told The Hindu.
The bank had given prior intimation to the Election Commission about the transportation of gold and as such had not anticipated such a trouble, as they were in possession of relevant documents.
When reports last came in, senior officials of the bank were waiting at the Tiruvallur Collectorate to get the seized gold released. It is reliably learnt that the bank regularly transports such huge quantities of gold.
(With inputs from Special Correspondent in Tirupati)