Mystery of small-time gold smugglers grows

Sleuths zero in on West Asia-based rackets

October 18, 2017 12:12 am | Updated 12:12 am IST - Kochi

While stories of big-time gold smugglers from the Gulf to Kerala may well be a thing of past, there is no stopping to the flow of black market bullion through our airports.

For instance, Customs sleuths at the international airport here have intercepted about 15 persons, including a few foreign nationals, over the past one week and they were found carrying the metal weighing around half a kilogram each.

While this unprecedented rise in seizures is attributed to the Diwali rush, officials also point to the operation of some West Asia-based syndicates regularly transporting people between Kerala and the Gulf to smuggle gold.

“The quantity they smuggle in with each carrier is particularly perplexing. Even if we take it as part of some risk-reduction strategy, why they keep doing this by investing heavily needs to be examined,” said S. Anil Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Customs, Kochi. Investigations have revealed that the carriers are being deployed by a multi-layered racket that hands over the consignment only at airports.

“The inability to retrieve the consignment is also a major issue as the metal is melted the moment it reaches local buyers’ hands,” he added.

Officials now suspect whether this is part of some diversionary tactic. For, the continuous flow of gold in small volumes has been reported from all major airports across South India. “We strongly suspect that smugglers are now making use of sea and land routes,” said a senior Customs official. However, at airports, smugglers are still relying on old techniques of concealing gold in body or inside some electronic or electrical equipment.

Meanwhile, officials also pointed to the operation of a Sree Lankan racket from South-East Asia that bring in gold in the form of crude ornaments and return with huge textile consignments a couple of days later.

“The carriers of this racket are mostly women who invariably hold a card from any of the Ayurvedic hospitals here. If intercepted, they will say they came here to visit their close relatives under treatment at these hospitals,” the officials said.

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