An manual iron box in the luggage is enough to raise a few eyebrows, but what Customs officials found inside the metal box made their eyes glitter. Two kilograms of gold in a plate form formed the inner base of the manual iron box that was seized on Tuesday night.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has seen a sudden spurt in gold smuggling cases with customs officials seizing gold worth Rs 2.08 crore in the past two days alone.
The gold metal plate inside the iron box worth Rs 51.51 lakh was seized from a Srilankan national, Mohammed Hilmy, who had arrived from Madagascar via Mauritius, said Customs officials.
“We have lists from airlines so coming across a Sri Lankan national travelling from Madagascar via Mauritius did not add up. So on suspicion, we intercepted him and found the iron box in his check-in luggage,” said a Customs official.
This week saw smuggling in various forms, with smugglers dropping gold in toilet dustbins, concealing gold in articles and smugglers trying gold and possessing more than one passport, sending Customs officials into a tizzy.
Based on specific inputs, Customs officials followed and intercepted a smuggler attempting to drop off 17 gold bars weighing ten tolas each, worth Rs 49.56 lakh, into the toilet dustbins at the airport. Smuggler Tauseef Qureshi had arrived from Dubai via Doha, considered smuggling transit points.
Another six gold bars worth Rs 17.48 lakh were seized from Abbas Abdulla, who had arrived from Sharjah. “Upon investigation, we found that he had two passports, one authentic Indian passport and another fake Indian passport. We have handed him over to the bureau of immigration for further investigation,” said Customs officials.
Further, two other smugglers were caught after they clear through the green channel with undeclared gold. While Customs seized 13 gold bars worth Rs 77.97 lakh from a Irfan Ismail, a British passport holder, travelling from Hongkong, another passenger Huzaifa Patanwala travelling from Sharjah was caught with four gold bars worth Rs 11.65 lakh.
“We were expecting the cases to go up right after the holiday season as there is a dip in ticket prices. As long as there is a 10 per cent duty on importing gold, smuggling will continue. Moreover, the wedding season will be on till March and there would be a rush to smuggle gold before the budget session is on, with the indications from the finance ministry about possible change in policy,” said a Customs official.
So far, Customs has seized around 750 kgs of gold in the current financial year. In December, Customs managed to haul up the highest amount of yellow metal seized at any airport in the country, in a calendar year with 1000kg seizure in 2014.