Northeast emerges big gold smuggling route

Northeast emerges big gold smuggling route

Sharing 98% its borders with four countries, Northeast India is increasingly being used as a transit by Myanmar-based smugglers to pump in Chinese gold into India.

The demand for gold in the country goes up before Diwali every year, especially down south, from neighbouring Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) claims that their investigation revealed that a “strong network” of international smugglers from Myanmar is using the Northeast and North Bengal’s borders with Myanmar, China, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh to smuggle gold into India. “The smugglers’ network in Myanmar brings in gold mainly from China and uses the borders with Moreh in Manipur and Champai district in Mizoram. Siliguri in North Bengal is also used to smuggle Chinese gold via Nepal and Bhutan. The middlemen use road, rail or air routes to reach the markets in Chandni Chowk in Delhi or Barabazar in Kolkata,” an official in DRI’s zonal office here told DH on Sunday.

China is the world’s largest gold producer followed by Australia, Russia and the United States. The DRI, with the help of other security agencies, has seized 298.173 kg of smuggled gold and gold jewellery worth Rs. 90.84 crore in the current financial year so far. Last year, it seized 430 kg gold in the east and the Northeast, worth Rs 110 crore.

The involvement of Myanmar-based smugglers came to light again on Friday when a joint team of DRI and Assam Rifles arrested two Myanmarese nationals with 7.482 kg gold bars worth an estimated at Rs 2.45 crore while they were on their way to Silchar in neighbouring Assam from Mizoram capital Aizawl.

The smuggled gold is fed into the markets of Kerala and Tamil Nadu which has people from adjoining Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as customers.

A person is allowed to buy bulk gold only from authorised banks, Reserve Bank of India branches or the Metals and Minerals Corporation of India.

But these organisations seek various documents including PAN cards and sell them at prices fixed in the legal gold markets.

“In the legal markets, one kg of gold is priced at Rs 31 lakh today but it’s cheaper in black markets. Our investigation has revealed that a smuggler earns at least Rs 4 to 5 lakh from one kg gold in the black market,” the DRI official added.

“During interrogation, they disclosed that the recovered gold was smuggled in from Myanmar through the Indo-Myanmar border of Zokhawtar in Mizoram and was to be delivered at Guwahati for transport to either Delhi or Kolkata. They could not produce any document of import and possession of the gold biscuits and so they were arrested,” he said.

The DRI official said there is another network of smugglers in Bangladesh who smuggle Swiss-gold through the borders with Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Bengal, mainly for markets in Kolkata. The DRI sleuths from Bengaluru also revealed to DH that Northeastern states alone account for 60% of the seizure. Smugglers take the Northeastern route owing to the inhospitable terrain which is difficult to monitor to smuggle what is often called ‘Burmese Gold’.

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