Chennai gold smuggling: BJP-linked man helped YouTuber set up shop in airport?

YouTuber Sabir Ali, who was arrested in the gold smuggling case, told Customs officials that former TN BJP Youth Wing leader GA Prithvi influenced the Airports Authority of India to set up the shop that allegedly aided the smuggling in the Chennai airport.
GA Prithvi
GA Prithvi
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The owner of the company that rents out space for shops at Chennai airport is reportedly under the Customs department scanner over a gold smuggling racket. GA Prithvi, the Managing Director of Vidvedaa PRG, which owns the rights to renting out space for shops at the Chennai International Airport, is a former state executive member of the Tamil Nadu BJP Youth Wing and is believed to be close to several top BJP leaders both in Tamil Nadu and in Delhi. Prithvi rented out space inside the airport’s transit area to Sabir Ali, the main accused in the gold smuggling case to run the Airhub shop from February 2024. This was despite the fact that Sabir, a Chennai-based YouTuber, did not have any prior experience in running such a shop.  

On June 27, the Customs department arrested Sabir and eight others after they busted a smuggling ring involving 267 kg of gold at Chennai airport. According to the Customs department, passengers smuggling gold would hand it over to the staff members at Airhub, located in the transit area of the airport. The staff would then hide it in their rectums to  smuggle it out of the airport. 

Following Sabir’s arrest, Customs officials conducted searches at the residences of two senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials and at Prithvi's residence. Sources say Prithvi's family members have told Customs officials that he is currently unavailable and is on a visit to the U.S. 

According to the Customs department’s investigation report, Sabir Ali admitted to the Customs officials that all staff members at the Airhub shop were trained to smuggle gold by concealing it in their rectums. “The transit passengers would hand over gold at the Airhub shop or in the M1 and M2 toilets in the transit area of the departure terminal. The shop staff would receive the gold and conceal it in their rectums and smuggle it out of the airport,” read the investigation report. 

The investigation report said that during questioning, Sabir Ali confessed to Customs officials that Prithvi influenced the AAI to set up the Airhub shop in the departure area of the Chennai International Airport.

Who is GA Prithvi?

Prithvi’s concessionaire company Vidvedaa PRG Airport Retail Trz Private Limited was incorporated in October 2023. Shortly after, the company obtained a contract for a 10,000 square feet space inside the transit area of Chennai International Airport. It was in February 2024 that he rented out a shop space to Sabir Ali’s Airhub. 

It was Prithvi’s influence within the party that allegedly helped him obtain the contract in such a short time. 

Prithvi's house that was searched by the Customs department
Prithvi's house that was searched by the Customs department

Photos of Prithvi with top leaders of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai, Minister of State L Murugan, BJP president JP Nadda, AIADMK leader Edappadi K Palaniswami, and O Panneerselvam have been shared online by several people. BJP sources said that Prithivi served as the Tamil Nadu state co-convener of the BJP Youth Wing in 2010. During Tamilisai Soundarajan’s tenure as state BJP chief, he was removed from the post due to various complaints. Later, he was appointed as the personal assistant to former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, but was asked to leave after a brief period due to further complaints. The complaints allegedly involved him misusing the names of ministers. 

Later, Prithivi set up base in Delhi and became close to several BJP leaders. He worked as the second personal assistant to Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, but was eventually asked to leave. Despite complaints against him, Prithivi managed to stay afloat and relocated to Tamil Nadu after K Annamalai became the party’s state president. 

According to BJP insiders, Prithivi’s contacts in Delhi helped him act as a go-between for several Tamil Nadu BJP leaders and the party leadership in Delhi. 

“Prithivi gained so much influence that he was made the unofficial protocol person whenever a top Union Minister or BJP leader arrived in Chennai. He would be present at the airport and would receive the guest. No interaction would take place without Prithivi being privy to it,” said the source.

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