Pune: While Dubai continues to be a major destination from where gold is illegally imported into the country, the recent trend shows that gold smugglers are tapping first-time travellers to Dubai or Abu Dhabi as easy targets.
On March 21, a traveller from Trombay, Mumbai, was nabbed by Customs officials at Pune airport with gold worth Rs 17.57 lakh. An investigation revealed that the man, Mohammad Irfan Shaikh, was a first-time traveller and his passport was issued on March 1.
A source from the Customs Department said, “The kingpins of the gold smuggling racket are mostly based in Mumbai. Vulnerable targets are contacted by some third party working for the kingpins. The victims are lured with fat pay packets and are easily trapped. A team works to identify those who want to visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi. They provide them passports, visas and other travel documents.”
“They also tell these first-time travellers about a person in Dubai or Abu Dhabi who will help them tour places. The tour is only for a week or 10 days. When they finish their tour, the person gives them a packet or trolley bag as a token. They don’t even know what they are carrying to India,” said the source.
“These men get trapped mainly because their ticket expenses and visas are all arranged by the kingpins and their accomplices. We believe that during the targets’ stay in Dubai, gold is carefully kept in the luggage without their knowledge,” the official added.
A 25-year-old youth from Mumbra in Thane met a man who offered him a job as a construction worker in Dubai. The youth’s flight ticket to Dubai was also arranged. He left for Dubai from the airport at Lohegaon, Pune, on December 6, only to return on December 10 as the job offer did not work out. At the Pune airport, Customs authorities found on him 48 baby diapers with buttons made of gold. He, too, was caught unawares by the discovery.
Earlier, officials searched frequent travellers as it was believed it’s easier for frequent travellers to deceive Customs officials.