… customs and police officials investigating the case

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Police and customs officials in Paro are currently investigating a case of USD 450,000 smuggled to Thailand by a Drukair staff on June 23.

According to Kuensel sources, the man had traveled to Bangkok to see off his niece, who was leaving for Australia. However, he was apprehended by Thai customs officials with USD 450,000 in his possession.

Foreign currency regulations stipulate that any foreign currency equivalent to or exceeding USD 10,000 must be declared to customs upon departure or arrival.

The suspect, who works in the catering division of Drukair, returned to Bhutan on June 28. Sources indicate that despite being subjected to a body frisk at the Paro International Airport, nothing suspicious was found. However, officials became suspicious due to the frequency of his travel over the past six months, suggesting possible wrongdoing on the part of the suspect.

Sources also said that customs officials at Bangkok International Airport have been monitoring the suspect’s travels following his frequent visit to Thailand. “We heard that the suspect was under surveillance in the Bangkok Airport,” one told Kuensel.

An official from Drukair stated that they have no additional information and believe that the relevant agencies are conducting an investigation. The suspect is currently on leave, having taken time off after returning to the office. “He joined office, took leave, and is still on leave as of now,” the official said.

Meanwhile,  given the volume of the hard currency and the way he managed to reach Bangkok with it, observers are suspecting that the suspect must have taken USD along with catering items through the ramp connecting the hangar to the aircraft. “Otherwise, it would not be possible to pass through customs unless they colluded,” one said.

Kuensel attempted to contact the police in Paro for confirmation but in vain.

In March this year, one suspect managed to smuggle in 7.190 kg of gold with the assistance of two security personnel and a loader at Paro airport. They were detained by the police for allegedly facilitating the smugglers in carrying money beyond permissible amounts out of the country and attempting to bring in gold.

The police recommended the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to charge them with aiding and abetting the crime. The OAG charged more than 12 people involved in the gold smuggling case at the Paro Dzongkhag court on July 3.

Meanwhile, the security system at Paro Airport has tightened after the recent dollar case and gold smuggling. “It’s like shutting the door after the horse has bolted,” one traveler said.