Pune: Smugglers are now adopting novel methods to conceal the yellow metal. A string of seizures made by Customs officials at the Pune airport from ‘carriers’ of gold highlights the practice. Smugglers have changed their modus operandi and are smuggling gold not in solid form but in powder form to skip detection during arrival.
International flights land at the Pune airport from Dubai (Air India and Spice Jet), Abu Dhabi (Jet Airways) and Frankfurt (Lufthansa). Gold is smuggled in only from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Most of the smugglers nabbed at the airport came from Dubai.
Recently, in two consecutive incidents, gold mixed with chemicals was being smuggled by passengers coming from Dubai. On Thursday (April 10), in the second case in the week, a passenger who arrived by Air India IX 212 flight from Dubai was nabbed for smuggling gold weighing 374.04 gm worth Rs 11.70 lakh. Plastic pouches containing gold were concealed in the inner linings of his jeans.
“This is a new modus operandi. As gold is mixed with different chemicals, it takes time to extract and weigh it. The way the man was concealing the entire mix was clever, but we managed to arrest him,” said Mahesh Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Customs at the Pune Airport.
On Monday, officials caught a lady from Mumbai and a male passenger from Kerala, who arrived by Spice Jet SG 52 flight from Dubai, using the same method for illegally importing gold worth Rs 46.34 lakh.
“This is a new method they are adopting to import gold illegally in the Indian market. They are mixing chemicals and gold powder to make a jelly and this is a new challenge for us. They are trying to cheat and escape from luggage checking procedures after arrival. The change in the modus operandi shows that smugglers are trying out various ways to smuggle in gold. Our system is in place and we can deal with any method,” said a senior official of the Customs department at the Pune airport.
Money offered to carriers to take illegal consignments ranges from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000. It is the ‘carriers’ who get caught while the kingpin remains safe, say sources.
Smugglers often split the consignment to avoid arrest. Most of the seized gold has been in small quantities and arrest is made only, if the value exceeds Rs 20 lakh, says an officer. If the value exceeds Rs 1 crore, the accused is arrested for the crime and it is non-bailable.
The Customs authorities say stronger mechanism has been put in place at the airport to check smuggling. “We are trying our best to thwart smuggling,” said another officer.