Gold smugglers devise novel ways

Gold smugglers devise novel ways

Price difference between India and West Asia prove too tempting to many

Kasargod resident Shashidharan, who swallowed half-a-kg of gold and smuggled it on a Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express flight on January 31, has not been the only inbound passenger trying to bring the yellow metal illegally into the port city. 

There have been many like him who have devised novel and ingenious methods to smuggle gold. A look at recent smuggling bids at the Mangalore International Airport is rather interesting. 

According to customs officers, smugglers in the recent past have used mobile phones (replacing the battery with gold biscuit), thermos flasks (replacing silver foil with gold foil), keys (made of gold with silver coating), electric shaver (made of gold with silver coating), torches (replacing batteries with gold), suitcase beadings (using gold beading with silver coating), footwear (making a hole in the footwear which is normally not scanned by customs officers), hot plates (replacing springs and coil with golden springs and golden coils) and food packets, etc. 

Sources in the customs said that more than 17 kg of gold worth over Rs five crore had been seized in the last one year. The amount of gold smuggled successfully — dodging the customs — is significant, the sources conceded. The increase in gold smuggling is explained by the considerable difference in prices of the yellow metal in India and other countries, especially West Asia. 

The difference, which was just about Rs one lakh per kg a few years ago, has now gone up to Rs six lakh per kg, according to a businessman. While in India, one kg of gold costs Rs 30-31 lakh, it is priced at Rs 24 lakh in Dubai. Besides, a policy introduced by the Union government a couple of months ago has also led to increase in cases of gold smuggling. 

New rule

The new rule stipulates that jewellers, who want to buy gold from banks the second time, should export 20 per cent of the gold purchased earlier after converting it into jewellery. “As it is very difficult to export 20 per cent of the gold, many jewellers look for ingenious ways to import the yellow metal,” said another source. 
As carriers are paid handsomely (as much as Rs three lakh per kg) along with free return ticket to Dubai and accommodation, many people looking for some quick buck fall prey. In addition, a smuggler is arrested only if he or she possesses gold worth over Rs 20 lakh (about 700 gm). 

Sources in the customs said it was a challenge to catch the right person in the shortest possible time. They have to check 100-150 passengers in each flight in 15-20 minutes or at the most 30 minutes. 

“Since body scanners are not used in India, it is not possible to detect gold if a smuggler swallows the pellets or keeps them in his/her rectum. The challenge gets bigger if the smuggler is professional or walks out of the airport with confidence,” another official said. 

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