NEW DELHI: In a major haul of gold smuggled into Kerala, customs officers at Trivandrum International Airport on July 4 seized gold worth more than Rs 13 crore. The gold brought in the cargo was addressed to a consulate office in Manacaud,
Around 30 kilograms of gold was seized from the cargo. According to the commissioner of customs
, the parcel for the consulate office reached the airport in cargo flight a few days ago and the seizure was made based on intelligence information.
As per Customs Act and Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention) Act, two kinds of objects of the diplomats are exempted from inspection: articles for official use and the personal baggage of a diplomatic agent. In this case, the consignment was brought as personal baggage and customs officers had to seek permission from higher authorities for an examination of the consignment.
Here is all you need to know about the smuggling case to rock the southern Indian state —
Caught in the Act
Commissionerate of Customs (Preventive) (CCP) seized 540.37 kg of gold worth Rs 187 cr in the state in fiscal 2019-20. This was double that of 2018-19 when CCP seized 251 kg of gold. In 2019-20, as many as 802 cases were registered by CCP in the state.
Airport-wise busts in 2019-20
- Sleuths at Calicut Airport, under CCP, seized as much as 232 kg of gold in the last financial year
- Cochin Airport falls under the jurisdiction of Customs House, Cochin and the amount of gold seized in 2019-20 is estimated to be over 200 kg. However, Customs House is yet to officially publish figures
- CCP sleuths at Kannur Airport (opened in 2019) seized 47.1 kg of gold
- At Thiruvananthapuram Airport, which also falls under CCP, sleuths seized over 200kg of gold
Modus Operandi of gold smugglers
With gold purchases in India inviting 12.5% import duty and 3% GST, smuggling of the yellow metal into the country is very rampant. Usually, smugglers use couriers or carriers — mostly air passengers — to move the contraband.
The carrier class
- Carriers are lured by rackets which offer them money and free tickets.
- They can be persons travelling abroad just for the purpose. But mostly, they are people returning from abroad.
- They can be persons returning after a job hunt on a visit visa. They can also be people returning home for vacation, etc.
- The usual payment for carriers is reportedly Rs 20,000 and flight ticket, but this might vary.
- Even if the smuggling bid is foiled by Customs or DRI sleuths, the person who gets caught is almost always the carrier. Sleuths finding source and destination of the contraband are rare.
Raising a racket
- Rackets would have an agent based in the foreign country who scouts for possible carriers and make arrangements for sending the contraband through them.
- Another agent would take the smuggled contraband from a carrier at the destination airport and transport it to the next destination.
- Though such agents have been caught by sleuths before, the kingpins are almost never caught.
- Rackets have even infiltrated enforcement agencies and there have been instances in which Customs officers were arrested for aiding smugglers.
- Apart from speculation that jewellers are also involved in the smuggling, instances of they being charged are rare.
A variety of methods are used to smuggle gold. The contraband could either be concealed on the carrier’s body or in his baggage. Gold in compound form, a method in which the metal is converted into a semi-liquid state to evade detectors, is also widely used
- Under a wig
- In the rectum
- As crude ornaments hidden in clothing
- Gold in compound form packed in plastic pouches wrapped around one’s body or taped on to it
- Under feet and inside socks
- Within appliances kept in the baggage
- In other goods
- Using false compartments
- Corrupt officials of enforcement agencies have been used to get the smuggled gold outside airports.
- Ground handling staff and other personnel involved in airport functioning can also be used to smuggle out the gold.
The diplomatic channel
- The latest addition to the endless list of smuggling possibilities is the diplomatic baggage.
- A country sends documents or other e