Smugglers sneaking in gold from the Gulf into Kerala can make Rs. 424 per gram

There seems to be a big market for illegal gold in Kerala going by the number of recent cases in which smuggled gold was seized by law enforcement agencies. As the government upped the import duty on gold, smugglers figured out the simple maths that makes illegal trade of the precious metal highly lucrative.

The smuggler could make as much as Rs.424 per gram of gold as profit from evasion of tax while smuggling gold into the country from the Gulf, said Customs Commissioner K.N. Raghavan. A small part of this goes towards the air fare of the gold carriers. Subtract the carriers’ remuneration, and smugglers still reap huge profits. The carries get about 1,000 dirhams (approximately Rs.17,000).

Using air passengers to carry small amounts of gold is cheaper as well as safer for smugglers. Malayalis are a significant presence in the Gulf and individual passengers carrying small amounts may not attract as much attention from Customs officials as large consignments of gold. “Malayalis working in the Gulf see smuggling as an opportunity to earn some extra money. Smuggling of gold worth less than Rs.1 crore is a bailable offence. So the fear of imprisonment is less if they don’t carry more than 3 kg of gold,” said Dr. Raghavan.

Enforcement agencies, however, have been cracking down on smuggling rackets. An Ernakulam court dismissed the bail petitions of two women arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence last month for smuggling 3 kg of gold each, which is worth less than the Rs.1 crore level for posting bail. In the case, the court observed that the two women had smuggled the total amount of gold as part of a common intention and could not be let out on bail.

The Customs Department seized 44 kg of gold from Nedumbassery international airport in the last three months. Large quantity of gold was also seized from Karipur airport, with carriers in each case admitting to have smuggled gold on previous occasions. Recent arrests revealed that the smuggled gold was making its way to jewellery shops, either in bullion form or melted into crude chains by intermediaries. As there is no excise duty on the yellow metal, the smuggled gold becomes almost impossible to trace once it enters jewellery showrooms. The only option for enforcement agencies is to stop the gold at the country’s borders.

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