On Friday, Dec 11, after the vault that supposedly contained 400 kgs of gold that had been impounded by the Premiere Central Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from a private importer in 2012, was opened, it was noticed that a round figure of 100 kgs of gold was missing from the CBI custody. The Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu Police to conduct a Crime Branch (CB) – Crime Investigation Department (CID) probe.
The vault was opened because the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in 2019, had ordered the CBI to hand over the gold bullion to the liquidator of the company so that the proceeds can be distributed among banks that lent funds to the company. But, when the vault was opened, only 296 kgs of gold was found in it as against the original 400 kg.
103.864 kgs of gold, amounting to Rs. 43 crores, approximately, was found missing. “The difference is not a few grams… it’s a whopping 1 lakh grams.” the court stated. The court can charge theft charges against the CBI in case the investigation by the state agencies find any blunder at CBI’s end. But, in its defence, the CBI has said that because the gold was weighed individually while handing it over to the liquidator, there has been a discrepancy. The court also put across that it can punish the CBI and penalise them the same amount that has been lost.
While listing possibilities, the court also added and observed, “The CBI officials, in collusion, with the panchas and others, may have illegally dealt with the gold while maintaining the weight as 400 kg. In the seizure mahazar as a shortfall therein would have made Surana cry foul. Secondly, the CBI officials in collusion with Surana and others, may have permitted Surana to deal with 100 and odd kgs after effecting the seizure.” To which the CBI carefully said that the gold was kept in the lockers and vaults of Surana under the seal of CBI. The CBI, in its arguments defensively said that it handed over 72 keys of the vaults to the Chennai principal special court for CBI cases.
Upon CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor urging the court for the probe in the matter be conducted by the CBI or National Investigation Agency (NIA) instead of the state police, Justice P N Prakash said, “The court cannot subscribe to this view, because the law does not sanction such an inference. All policemen have to be trusted and it does not lie in the mouth of one to say that the CBI have special horns, whereas, the local police have only a tail.”.