Goa Customs is deploying additional staff in Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) at the Dabolim international airport in south Goa.

With apprehensions growing that smuggling through sea, air and land may be revived because of the huge difference in prices of gold in India and the Middle East, Goa Commissionerate of Central Excise and Customs has decided to undertake additional measures to fight the menace.

As a first step, the Goa Customs is deploying additional staff in Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) at the Dabolim international airport in south Goa. It plans to tackle the sea front by reviving shore patrolling formations called Shore Guard Parities and The Shore Guard. They are expected to be operational by September 1, said V.P.C. Rao, Commissioner, Central Excise and Customs, Goa on Wednesday.

Talking to presspersons on this issue, Mr. Rao said that body concealment (concealing of gold in rectum) had suddenly surfaced “with a bang” at the Dabolim international airport. He recalled that this modus operandi was adopted by diehard smugglers in the 70s and 80s.

He said that gold is being smuggled on a regular basis. Apart from measures like monintoring trawlers, road patrolling along coastal roads would also be started.

The Commissionerate has activated a Marine formation with five Speed Boats for patrolling the sea waters of Goa. With the creation of Shore Guard Parties and strengthening of AIUs, the Commissionerate would be fully prepared to face the challenge of smuggling, said Mr. Rao.

Mr. Rao said the price difference of gold between Dubai and India was Rs. 4.5 lakh per kg, apart from a 10 per cent import duty on the yellow metal.

Cases foiled

The Goa Customs so far in the year foiled eight cases of gold smuggling, with a total value of Rs. 2.66 crore. In all 15 persons have been arrested this year for gold smuggling.

He provided details of three cases of gold smuggling detected by Goa Customs from international passengers travelling from Dubai to Goa via Mumbai on Tuesday. Gold weighing 4.129 kg, valued at Rs.1.33 crore was seized. Two Sri Lankan nationals, Mohammad Hamja and Mahammod Sarfraj, and Ibrahim Jawed Mia from Kerala have been arrested and remanded to judicial custody for one week.

Mr. Rao said that the two Sri Lankan nationals had concealed gold in their rectum and the AIU and Air Customs Officers detected the concealment with the help of metal detectors. This was the biggest seizure so far, he said.

Trends

He said that as of now the only consolation was that stray individuals were involved in all the cases and no evidence exists to believe that gangs were involved. However, what was worrying was that these seizures were coinciding with the rise in gold prices in India and increased rate of duty on gold imports.

Interestingly, seizures were mostly from body concealment. From interrogations, it transpired that in most of the cases domestic passengers were engaged to transfer the gold from international passengers in the aircraft.

“Goa is connected to Middle East only with flights coming from Sharjah, Dubai and Doha and most of the seizures are detected in Dubai-Goa Air India flights coming either via Mumbai or directly. International passengers from Bangkok also join in the flight coming from Dubai to Goa via Mumbai, at Mumbai. Mostly the gold smuggled seems to be meant for Mumbai and Kerala,” said Mr. Rao.