Gold smuggling through the Calicut International Airport has increased in the last few months following an all-time rise in the price of the yellow metal recently.
Despite the Air Intelligence Unit of the Customs Department intensifying the drive against smuggling, the number of cases has gone up. If the number of cases was 78 in 2017 and the quantity of gold seized was 51.849 kg, it made a quantum jump to 529 cases in 2018, with the quantity of gold seized at 158.76 kg. This year too, smuggling has not declined with the high import duty on gold. The number of cases registered till June 30 was 232 and the quantity seized was 106.79 kg.
Kerala is one of the largest consumers of gold in the country, and the value of seizures point to the demand for gold. Lower prices and better quality of gold encourage Non-Resident Indians to bring jewellery to Kerala. Besides, smugglers push gold to meet the high demand during the wedding season.
Passengers who have been abroad for six months have been permitted to bring jewellery of 20 g (male passenger) and 40 g (female passenger) free of duty. The value of gold seizures is ₹33.23 crore during the six-month period this year.
Smugglers stand to make a minimum profit of ₹3.25 lakh to ₹3.50 lakh for every consignment of gold smuggled into the State after other expenses, including the provision of facilities to carriers. Nowadays women and children are also used as conduits for easy passage of gold through the airport.
Sources said that two gangs based in Koduvally and Kasaragod were involved in the smuggling of gold through the Calicut airport in north Kerala.
The modus operandi of the smugglers has also changed course with the crackdown in recent times. Most cases of gold smuggled in biscuit form of 116 gm are from Dubai and Doha.
Innovative ways of smuggling include disguising gold as decorative beading on handbags, concealing it in household electronic equipment, laptops, mobile phones and hiding it in body cavities. Gold is also smuggled in powdered form, with the powdered metal mixed with gum or chemical paste and converted into belts, according to sources.