DRI asks Air India to check gold smuggling by its staff

Last Updated 26 December 2013, 09:38 IST

Worried over instances of gold smuggling by some Air India staffers, the Directorate General of Revenue Intelligence has asked the national carrier to take necessary measures to check it.

In a letter written by Director General of DRI Najeeb Shah, Air India has been asked to sanitise its staff, especially those involved in ground-handling duties, official sources said.
The DRI has also cited some past incidents of gold smuggling by Air India staffers in its missive, they said.

Air India did not offer any response or comment to PTI on the matter.

"There have been growing instances of gold smuggling by some Air India staffers. We seek immediate steps by them to ensure such kind of incidents do not happen," a DRI official said.

"We have been taking strict measures to check gold smuggling. The airline management also needs to put in place an effective system," the official said.

The DRI is understood to have sought a detailed enquiry report regarding those staffers held for illegally bringing gold into the country.

An Air India air hostess and her friend were arrested by DRI last month from Calicut International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle into the country 6 kg of gold, officials said.

In October, 32 kgs of gold biscuits, worth Rs 15 crore in the international market, were recovered from the lavatory of an Air India flight when it reached Chennai from Dubai. Four persons were later arrested in the case, they said.

Three Air India staffers were also arrested at IGI airport here in October by customs officials for allegedly trying to smuggle gold out of the country.

DRI officials said members of Customs Overseas Intelligence Network (COIN) have also been asked to coordinate with the agencies concerned in South East region, including in Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, to keep a watch on consignments originating from there to India for suspected gold smuggling.

The Finance Ministry had raised customs duty on gold to 10 per cent in August from 2 per cent in January 2012, besides imposing other curbs on imports of the metal. This is also leading to instances of gold smuggling, officials said.

The move to impose curb on gold import was taken to narrow the current account deficit (CAD), the difference between the outflow and inflow of foreign currency. The CAD touched a historic high of 4.8 per cent of GDP in 2012-13 and was mainly attributed to high imports of gold and petroleum products.

The CAD narrowed to 1.2 per cent of GDP in the second quarter of this financial year after a steep decline in gold imports. The deficit was 4.9 per cent of GDP in the first quarter (April-June).

India is the largest importer of gold, which is mainly used to meet demand of the jewellery industry. Imports stood at about 830 tonnes in 2012-13.

(Published 26 December 2013, 09:38 IST)

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