Gold smugglers are coming up with ever-new ways of sneaking past customs authorities at Mangalore International Airport (MIA), who have seized undeclared gold from seemingly innocuous items like torches, shirt hangers, insulated cables, flasks, bathroom fittings, retractable measuring tape, shoes, zippers, belt buckles, undergarments, kitchen foil and electric coils.
Following the 10 per cent duty imposed on imports of the yellow metal last year, MIA authorities have witnessed a four-fold increase in attempts to smuggle gold into the country.
As per customs rules for Indian citizens travelling from foreign nations, a ceiling of Rs 1 lakh worth of gold is set for women passengers, whereas men can carry gold up to Rs 50,000. Gold in excess of this is subject to a duty of 4 per cent forbars or coins and 10 per cent for ornaments.
“The base price of gold in the UAE is approximately Rs 450-500 lower per gram. So even with a hundred grams of gold, one can make a neat profit by selling it at the Indian market price. Besides, people are attached to their ornaments for sentimental reasons,” a customs official said.
Airport authorities said that the new, ingenious ways of hiding gold in everyday objects points to the involvement of professional smugglers. A notorious ‘Kasargod Gang’ based in the UAE is among the prime suspects. “When we detected gold in modular bathroom fittings, we could see that this was not an amateur’s work. Obviously, professional machines were used to modify the object,” T Radhakrishna, Director, Mangalore International Airport, said.
Customs authorities at the airport said that most passengers assume that smaller airports are ill equipped to detect gold, but the metal, in any form, is next to impossible to slip past the electronic scanners at any airport.