100 Kg Gold Goes Missing; Madras High Court Orders Tamil Nadu Police to Probe CBI

Describing it as a "prestige issue", the CBI has requested the high court not to transfer the case of missing gold from its custody to local police. However, the plea has been denied.

New Delhi: The Madras high court has directed Tamil Nadu police to investigate the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding 100 kilograms of gold missing from the custody of the central agency. Gold worth over Rs 43 crore has gone missing from the CBI’s custody.

While the central agency has made it about a “prestige issue” and urged the court that a CBI unit from another region or the National Investigation Agency (NIA) be allowed to probe the matter, the court asked the Tamil Nadu police to handle the case instead.

 In a 2012 case, the CBI had seized gold in connection with a case involving Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC). The CBI had alleged that MMTC had shown undue favours towards Surana Corporation Limited, which dealt with the import of gold and silver. In all over 400 kg of gold –all in the form of bars and ornaments – were seized from Suvarna Corporation Limited’s building located in Chennai. While the CBI claims that the keys to the vault had been submitted to a Special CBI Court in Chennai, there are no supporting documents to corroborate its claim.

In its application before the Madras high court Judge P. N. Prakash, the CBI said: “The prestige of the CBI would come down if the investigation is done by the local police”. But the court rejected the plea, saying, “It may be an agni pariksha (trial by fire) for the CBI, but that cannot be helped. If their hands are clean, like Sita, they may come out brighter. If not, they would have to face the music.”

Although the seizures were made in 2012, the CBI in another case in 2013 had claimed that the gold had been imported by Suvarna in violation of the Foreign Trade Policy. The CBI had got the seizures transferred from the 2012 case to the one registered in 2013. However, no physical handing over was carried out. In three years, the 2013 case was eventually closed on claims that adequate evidence was not found.

Even while the CBI court closed the case, the State Bank of India had initiated proceedings against Surana over the non-payment of dues and sought the seized gold’s custody. When eventually the vault was brought to court and it was open in the presence of the judge, over 103 kilograms of gold was missing.