Gold biscuits smuggled from Sri Lanka with help of fishermen in coastal hamlets

The seizure of 34 kg of gold by the marine police of the Coastal Security Group (CSG) in February at Mandapam and 15 kg of gold by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) at Kannirajapuram, a coastal hamlet, near here on Saturday is a pointer to the ‘thriving smuggling activities’ in the coast line. But the Customs Preventive Units (CPUs) in the district are hardly equipped to meet the challenge.

In both the cases, the gold biscuits were smuggled from Sri Lanka with the help of fishermen in coastal hamlets but the CPUs present in Rameswaram, Mandapam, Thondi and Kilakarai could not step up the surveillance and launch preventive measures as they were severely handicapped by shortage of manpower and logistic facilities.

After the Centre hiked the import tariff value for gold, there was ‘illicit influx of gold’ into India from Dubai via Sri Lanka through the sea route but the CPUs were not fully equipped to prevent the smuggling activities, a senior customs official said on condition of anonymity on Sunday .

“The seizures of the gold biscuits at Mandapam and at Kannirajapuram near Sayalkudi are only the tip of the ice berg,” he said.

The Directorate of Logistics had supplied hi-tech boats, one each to the four CPUs for the purpose of surveillance and preventive measures in 2008 but three of them have gone under repair. The boat given to the Rameswaram unit had gone aground and ‘abandoned’ at the Rameswaram naval jetty, the sources said.

The arms and ammunition supplied to these units about 30 years ago have lost firing capability, the sources said. The 303 Rifles and 7.62 Semi Loading Rifles (SLR) were also gathering dust so as the vehicles, the sources said.

Ten Inspectors have been posted at the Additional Commissionerate of Customs office at the headquarters here to collect intelligence and cultivate sources after interacting with the local people. But the purpose of their appointments could not be served as none could speak Tamil, the local language, the sources said.

In the last one year, the Rameswaram and Mandapam CPUs had registered just two cases of smuggling of red sanders, that too, with the support of local police, the sources said, adding “the Customs division and PCUs would remain handicapped unless they were completely overhauled by the Customs Commissionerate at Tiruchi.”

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