Customs officials at Nedumbassery international airport have recorded a spurt in seizure of smuggled gold after the import duty on gold was hiked to 10 per cent of its value

More than 47 kg of gold has been seized by the Customs Department from Nedumbassery international airport from September 2013. As much as 13 kg of gold has been seized from the airport since January 2014 alone.

Customs officials at the airport have recorded a spurt in seizure of smuggled gold after the import duty on gold was hiked to 10 per cent of its value. Gold smugglers stand to make huge profits when they buy gold at cheaper rates from the Gulf and import them into India illegally while evading tax. Despite the spurt in gold seizures recorded at the airport, unofficial estimates suggest only less than 20 per cent of gold being smuggled is seized. “A smuggler does not risk sending gold through carriers if they’re going to lose everything. For every carrier who is detained, several others will slip through,” said an official. Established gold jewellers in the State look to smugglers’ networks to supply gold to meet the huge demand.

On Monday, officials at the Nedumbassery international airport recorded yet another gold seizure, the fifth such instance in the last five days.

The method of concealment was very similar to that used by a man who was detained for smuggling on Saturday. Customs officials detained Sirajudeen Aboobacker Padiyathadukka, 25, of Kasaragod, as he was making his way through the green channel after arriving from Dubai at 3.20 a.m.

“On detailed examination, the officers were surprised to recover gold strips in thin crepe ribbon form pasted between layers of brown, corrugated carton. The gold crepe ribbon was ascertained to be of 24 carat purity. The gold ribbon so recovered weighed 500 g and is valued at Rs.14 lakh (market value),” the department informed in a press release.

The department seized about 5.55 kg gold from seven passengers in March 2014. A similar quantity of gold was seized from 26 passengers in February, and 3.25 kg from seven passengers in January. Customs officials said several such incidents were reported from Karipur, Thiruvananthapuram, and Bangalore airports as well in March.

Most of the cases detected recently have also been during the peak traffic hours early in the morning. “We handle about 3,000 passengers during the peak time between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. Our officers are alert and focused to detect smuggling,” said Customs Commissioner K.N. Raghavan.

The department also has to tread the line between enforcing strict security and harassing regular passengers.

While the high demand for gold in the State is prompting smugglers to go all out to bring gold through illegal channels, they also seem to have developed a network of carriers to do their dirty work. “While carriers detained earlier were poor people who lost their jobs in Gulf countries, most of those being detained these days are short-term travellers who are not even eligible to import gold legally,” said Deputy Commissioner of Customs S.A.S. Navaz.

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