24 gold bars worth $1.24m found stashed in aircraft toilet in India

KOLKATA (AFP) - Cleaners working on a commercial plane in eastern India have found 24 gold bars worth more than US$1 million (S$1.24 million) stuffed into a toilet compartment, officials said on Wednesday.

India, which rivals China as the world's biggest gold consumer, has witnessed a spike in smuggling after import duties were hiked three times this year to try to dampen demand for the precious metal.

The plane belonging to Jet Airways was being cleaned at Kolkata airport on Tuesday after a trip from the eastern city of Patna. It had previously been flying on international routes.

"The cleaning staff of the airport were going through their routine duties and found two bags in the toilets of the plane," director of the airport B.P. Mishra told AFP.

The one-kilogramme gold bars "have not been claimed by anyone. No arrest has been made as yet".

Senior customs official R.S. Meena estimated the value of the haul at about 70 million rupees, or US$1.1 million.