Gold bars found in lunchbox at Manchester Airport to be auctioned

Eight gold bars seized from a passenger attempting to smuggle the treasures onto a flight by hiding them in a lunchbox are set to be auctioned.

The ingots, which weighed in at 35lbs (16kg) and are worth an estimated £750,000, are set to be sold on Thursday.

A passenger bound for Dubai had attempted the unsuccessful smuggle back in November 2018, but the bars were discovered by HMRC officers at Manchester Airport.

The airline passenger, who was from the Manchester area, did not face prosecution.

However, the HMRC auction sale will be made under new civil proceeds of crime powers, with any funds received being returned to the public purse “to be spent on vital services such as hospitals and schools”.

An HMRC spokesperson told the BBC its investigators had used “new civil proceeds of crime powers for the first time to apply for forfeiture of the bars”.

The 2017 Criminal Finance Act allows certain assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to be subjected to forfeiture, in exactly the same way as cash deemed to be from the proceeds of crime.

HMRC Fraud Investigation Service assistant director Gill Hilton said the case “should act as a deterrent to criminals looking to trade assets such as precious metals”.