Shiv Kumar Prasad, a Personal Assistant to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has come under the scanner of the customs authority for allegedly being involved in gold smuggling, which was unravelled when a passenger was intercepted by sleuths at the IGI airport on Wednesday for carrying an undeclared chain of the precious metal weighing 500 grams.

The Customs authorities have detained and are questioning Prasad and passenger Dharmendra Dubey, airport sources told businessline. Prasad came to the airport and collected the 500-gram gold chain from Dubey, who had arrived at the IGI airport from Bangkok by flight TG-323 on May 29, the Customs department said.

The sleuths are also inquiring how Prasad managed to get a valid Aerodrome Entry Permit on the grounds that he was part of the protocol team for Kerala MP Tharoor. “The circumstances of acquisition of Aerodrome Entry Permit by the receiver, as a part of the protocol team for a member of parliament, are being looked into,” the Customs department pointed out.

Tharoor took to social media to state that he was “shocked” to hear the case against Prasad, whom he described as a “former member of my staff”, “rendering part-time service to me in terms of airport facilitation assistance” and that he “fully support authorities” in taking action against him.

“While I was in Dharamshala for campaigning purposes, I was shocked to hear of an incident involving a former member of my staff who has been rendering part-time service to me in terms of airport facilitation assistance. He is 72-year-old retiree undergoing frequent dialysis and was retained on a part-time basis on compassionate grounds. I do not condone any alleged wrongdoing and fully support the authorities in their efforts to take any necessary action as may be required to investigate the matter. The law must take its own course,” he posted on X.

The Customs department officially stated that “on the basis of suspicion, officers of Customs at IGI Airport, New Delhi have booked a case of smuggling of gold against an Indian national who arrived at IGI Airport from Bangkok by flight TG-323” on Wednesday.

“Further investigations revealed involvement of another individual (Prasad) who had come to the airport to receive the passenger and also assist in smuggling,” it said.

The sleuths intercepted Tharoor’s PA and “a heavy gold chain weighing 500 grams was recovered from him, which was handed over to him by the passenger inside the arrival hall”.

The gold, valued at ₹35.22 lakh, was recovered by the officials and seized under section 110 of the Customs Act, 1962. Further investigation is underway to find out from where it was bought, the link between the passenger courier and Tharoor’s PA, and other details of the smuggling case.

According to Customs officials, 24 persons were arrested in 44 cases registered last month, which led to the seizure of 34.20 kg of gold. For the last financial year of 2023-24, a total of 215 persons were arrested in 563 cases, leading to the seizure of 458.98 kg of gold, the officials added.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, meanwhile, took a jibe at the Congress and the CPM, describing them as an “alliance of gold smugglers”.

“First CM Secy involved in Gold smuggling, now Cong MP ‘aide’/PA detained for Gold smuggling. CPM and Cong - both INDI alliance partners - alliance of gold smugglers,” Chandrasekhar said on X.

Four years ago, Kerala was rocked by gold scams following the seizure of 30 kilos of gold by Customs at the Thiruvananthapuram Airport from a diplomatic bag.