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Editorial: A quintal-heavy gold breach at TIA

Editorial: A quintal-heavy gold breach at TIA

What does a quintal of gold making it through an international airport indicate? 

A security breach of titanic proportions. 

On July 19, the illegal gold concealed inside brake shoes ‘imported’ from Hong Kong in the name of Ready Traders passed through the Tribhuvan International Airport customs as security arrangements failed.  

But a team from the Revenue Investigation Department managed to intercept and seize the consignment from Sinamangal, a stone’s throw from the TIA. 

An ongoing investigation into this audacious breach has thus far brought 16 suspects under its dragnet. Public perception is that those arrested are but some small fries and that the big fish are beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.

The citizenry has reasons to be skeptical vis-à-vis the illegal gold probe, given that investigations into previous cases of gold smuggling, the Bhutanese refugee scam and the Lalita Niwas land-grab have failed to make progress beyond a point.

Frustrated with endemic corruption, political instability and the lack of rule of law as well as good governance, the citizenry has already started speculating reasons behind this inertia at a time when a deeper feeling that the high and the mighty can get away with anything is taking root in the country.

Like previous mind-boggling TIA breaches, the quintal-heavy breach has given rise to more questions than answers.

How did the cargo evade air-tight security at Hong Kong? What exactly went wrong with the screening system at the TIA that day, and how? How many times has the system gone ‘haywire’ in recent days? What amount of such illegal cargo has already made it through?   

Is the notorious ‘setting’—a prevalent collusion between the elements of bureaucracy, politics and powerful business interests—also behind this breach?

Was a falling out within the setting behind the confiscation of the cargo?

What was the end destination of the illegal cargo?

The nature of the entire operation indicates that it’s a transnational crime as the flight carrying the cargo had originated in Hong Kong. Apparently, a country that barely requires 40 kg of gold daily does not need a quintal of gold.

While the public can only speculate, the government has the wherewithal to get to the root of the case and book the guilty by working closely with transnational and international law enforcement agencies, if need be.

What directions this and other cases take will depend on one thing: The political will on the part of the government.

If the government is really serious about restoring faith in the current political system, it should be able to unravel the quintal-heavy case and other high-profile cases, come hell or high water, given that the cost of its failure will be too high for the country and the people.