The Customs department on Monday seized 877 gms of gold from Thai nationals, who were allegedly trying to smuggle it into India. A couple, holding Thailand passports, who arrived at Chandigarh airport on an Air India Bangkok-Chandigarh flight AI337, were carrying gold, estimated to be worth Rs 26.61 lakh. Both were detained by the Customs department as the duo attempted to exit the airport through the Green Channel.
Since the value of gold, carried each by the man and the woman, was less than Rs 20 lakh, they were not arrested but the stuff was seized as they had not declared the amount they were carrying. Chandigarh International Airport falls under the jurisdiction of the Customs department with its headquarters in Ludhiana, Punjab. Monday’s incident comes barely four days after the Customs department detained a Delhi resident for trying to smuggle 38 gms of gold worth Rs 1.19 lakh. The passenger was let off after paying a fine of Rs 70,000.
In Monday’s incident, the Customs department suspected the couple’s movement and stopped them while they were passing through the Green Channel. On being questioned, both denied carrying any restricted or undeclared goods. Later, their bags were scanned and X-ray found dotted images of some suspicious metal objects. When they were asked to open their luggage, the Customs officials found that the woman’s bag had eight shirts with gold buttons. Further investigation revealed that the gold buttons had been given a nickle coating. A total of 192 nickle-coated gold ringlets, weighing 455 gms, were found from the woman’s baggage. “It’s estimated value is Rs 13.84 lakh,” a Customs official told Chandigarh Newsline. The officer added that during the search of the Thai man, a gold chain, one gold bangle (kada) and a belt buckle made of gold, collectively weighing 422 gms, were recovered. “The estimated value of gold recovered from the man’s baggage was Rs 12.77 lakh,” added the Customs officer.
According to the Customs officials, the couple told them that they had brought the gold to sell it in India. They had also booked a room at a hotel in Sector 35, Chandigarh, from where they were scheduled to leave for New Delhi. There has been a recent surge in gold smuggling at the Chandigarh airport. Currently, Chandigarh airport is connected with flights between here and Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok.
Airport officials said most of the gold smuggling attempts are by passengers arriving from Dubai. However, a few incidents of gold smuggling have also been detected in flights arriving from Bangkok. So far, the Customs department has found that drug smugglers, operating in Dubai, have been hiring young people from the region to work as “gold mules”. The smugglers pay money and also sponsor their entire trip to Dubai. The gold is usually smuggled by hiding it inside body parts.