It’s Raining Gold at Mangalore International Airport (MIA)! Gold Seizures from Smugglers keep Customs Officials On Their Toes
Mangaluru: Three of the top 10 airports in India listed by the government, in a reply to the parliament, where the maximum quantity of gold seized over the last three years are to be from Kerala. More than 11,000 kilogram of gold worth Rs 3,122.8 crore has been seized by authorities in 16,555 gold smuggling cases reported across various Indian airports over the last five years ending August 2020, data shared by the government to the Parliament in September 2020, shows.
The year 2018-19, reported a 67% increase in the number of (4,855) cases detected over 2017-18 (2,911 cases). During the year 2018-19 and 2019-20, more than 4,000 cases each were reported, indicating a rise in gold smuggling cases compared to previous years. Gold worth Rs 858 crore was seized across airports in the year 2019-20, the most in five years, data shows. Over the last five years, 8,401 people have been booked in connection with smuggling of gold cases reported across Indian airports.
From films to real lives, instances of heists and smuggling make for some colourful narratives. But as it is, fact has always inspired fiction. Mangaluru Customs’ social media posts show that the outlandish narratives are the mundane in the smuggling world. The customs department has been sharing instances of gold smuggling and how smugglers tend to do it. It must be pointed out that the smugglers have not had a great run as the Mangaluru Customs department appears to have apprehended a lot of them.Gold smuggling has increased in India over the years due to heavy customs duty of 12.5%. However, the government in its latest Budget decreased the duty to 7.5%, but added an agri cess of 2.5%.
As the price for yellow metal is soaring every day, the Mangaluru International Airport has been witnessing seizure of huge quantities of gold every now and then. In January, 2020 alone, Custom sleuths at MIA seized gold valued at 3.24 crore. The gold is reportedly smuggled in to cut corners which ranges from 5-6 lakh per kg when brought through illicit ways. The number of gold seizures have been reported ever since MIA became operational for international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and Air Bubble Agreement. Customs officials after the airspace was opened have booked 15 cases (Till December 2020) involving a value of Rs 3 crore. Most of this gold was concealed inside the rectum or innerwear after making paste. Apart from gold, saffron is another biggest seizure in terms of value, say Custom officials.
“We are thwarting any attempt of smuggling of contrabands. Apart from gold, saffron, cigarettes, foreign currency being imported / exported illegally in violation of the Customs Act and other acts being administered by the Customs officers. In the last three years (end of 2020), the Customs officers posted at MIA have registered 210 cases involving detection and seizure of contrabands– gold and foreign currency with value to the tune of Rs 26.17 crores,” said a senior custom official.
On being asked who buys the smuggled gold and where it is moved, one of the senior Customs officials said usually those who are arrested are ‘carriers’. They are given a task by a smuggling syndicate to drop contraband at a designated place and paid in return. At times carriers under dark about the person whom they will give smuggled parcel. The smuggled gold is later circulated across the country till it is made as jewellery. Majority of the persons who were caught for smuggling gold belong to Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada and Kerala, who arrive from Dubai. Since many of these passengers who arrived from Gulf countries, especially Dubai, who have lost their jobs or their salary cut by half, accept the gauntlet of carrying gold for these gold dealers, and unfortunately get caught here at the airport by customs officials.
The customs department shared a post on Twitter where it said that a Mangaluru-based passenger was caught with gold valued at Rs 31,73,920. The department said that the passenger smuggled the gold by concealing it in the rectum. In another case, a passenger from Bhatkal who arrived from Dubai by a SpiceJet flight tried to smuggle 360.58 gm of gold in powder form by hiding it in its rectum. The gold was valued at Rs 18,71,746.
Another time, the custom officers seized 587 gm of gold valued at Rs 29.42 lakh from a passenger from Kasaragod. The passenger who had arrived in an Air India flight from Dubai got the gold in paste form and concealed it in his body. A passenger from Madikeri who arrived from Dubai in an Air India Express flight smuggled the gold in powder form mixed with solid gum. The Mangaluru Customs department said that the powdered gold was concealed in the body of the passenger. The smuggler had 870 gm of 24 carat gold, valued at Rs 44,19,600.
Mangaluru Customs department posted details of more passengers smuggling gold in powder form and hiding it in their body. Two passengers from Kasargod were booked by the Mangaluru Customs department for smuggine 2.153 kg of 24 carat gold in total, valued at Rs 1.10 crore. The passengers hid the gold in paste form in their undergarments. The two passengers had arrived from Sharjah by Air India Express flight.
In another case, a person from Kasargod arriving from Dubai by an IndiGo flight tried to smuggle gold in powder form and hide it within a speaker. The gold weighing 349.60 gm was valued at Rs 17,82,960. A passenger from Bhatkal who arrived from Dubai in a SpiceJet flight tried to smuggle gold in powder form by concealing it in shirt cuffs. The gold, weighing 257.90 gm, was valued at Rs 13,26,120.
Officers caught a passenger from Ullahasnagar trying to smuggle gold worth Rs 5.14 lakh in the form of silver-coated kada or bangle and bead covers of rudraksha mala, while another was caught trying to smuggle 180.93 gm of gold in the form of silver-coated round balls. Another was caught trying to smuggle 99 gm of gold in the form of five rhodium coated buttons of jeans pants. A passenger was caught in Calicut trying to smuggle 80 gm of 24 carat gold in the form of thin sheets hidden inside a laptop. The sheets were caught when the laptop was run under x-ray.
In the month of January 2021, customs at MIA made the following seizure of Gold:
Jan 26: Customs sleuths nabbed one person from Kasaragod, Kerala, arrived from Dubai and seized 0.658 grams of 24k purity gold valued at Rs 33.29 lakh. In a similar operation, gold weighing 1.119 kg valued at Rs 57 lakh was seized from two passengers. A total of 1.777 kg of gold valued at Rs 90.29 lakh was seized.
Jan 21: One person who arrived from Dubai was held with 800 grams of 24k purity gold valued at Rs 44.2 lakh.
Jan 15: In one of the biggest seizures, Customs sleuths have arrested two passengers, who arrived from Sharjah and seized 2.15 kg of concealed gold in paste form in inner wear. The seized gold is valued about Rs 1.09 crore.
Jan 6: Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials during an anti-smuggling operation at MIA detained two passengers travelling from Dubai to MIA, and seized 1.2 kg of gold valued at Rs 67 lakh.