How creative can gold smugglers get?

How creative can gold smugglers get?

How creative can gold smugglers get? Finance minister P Chidambaram recently admitted that up to three tonnes of gold was being smuggled into India every month. The World Gold Council would laugh at the conservative assessment.

Finance minister P Chidambaram recently admitted that up to three tonnes of gold was being smuggled into India every month. The World Gold Council would laugh at the conservative assessment. It says that 150 to 200 tonnes are being smuggled in a year. Gold smuggling is not a new phenomenon in India. An article in Bloomberg stated that importing the metal for domestic use was essentially banned until 1990, but because the demand for it still existed, between 10 and 217 tonnes of gold were brought into the country every year from 1968 to 1995. Here’s a list of innovative practices adopted by smugglers to smuggle gold into the country

Liquid state
The air intelligence unit at the Kochi International Airport found gold being smuggled in ‘royal liquid' form. Faisal, of Kasaragod district in north Kerala, who arrived from Dubai via Hyderabad on March 6, walked through the green channel. The customs scanner detected presence of metal in his baggage. Faisal calmly denied the charge. But, the sleuths eventually found that about two kilos of gold was dissolved in aqua regia, packed in condoms and concealed in liquid detergent containers. Customs officers say this was the first time they came across gold being smuggled in liquid form.
Mixed with coffee
Officers at the Mangalore airport recently found half a kilo of gold granules mixed with coffee powder.
Date packets
In Pune, officers found packets of dates which had gold seeds, weighing nearly half a kilo.
In Goa, a passenger was caught trying to smuggle gold stuffed in a trolley bag handle.
In Delhi, officers nabbed a smarty who tried to smuggle 750g of gold in the form of stapler pins on four cardboard cartons carrying electronic equipment.
In a major haul at the Bengaluru airport, officers caught two passengers who had hidden 4kg gold in the wiring inside a water purifier.
Ribbons and lingerie
In Kochi, officers held a passenger with 650g of gold in the form of crepe ribbons. He had also concealed two gold biscuits in his sandals. There have been several cases of gold wires concealed in lingerie.
In one case, when an officer slapped a suspect who misbehaved, he found gold wires concealed in the man's beard.
A commonly used crude method is the rectum route.
“Gold biscuits are stuck together with adhesive tape and packed in a condom. It is smothered with Nivea cream, and pushed into the rectum. It causes discomfort, but it is just a matter of a few hours,” says Shijad, who was caught for being a 'carrier'.
Swallowing pills
There are some who go to extremes like Sashidharan, 55, of Uduma town in Kasaragod. Flying into Mangalore from Dubai in February, he swallowed 29 gold capsules-weighing about 430g. He successfully exited the airport. But the gold did not exit him. Laxatives did not help as Sashidharan hoped. He got constipated with gold. Enema at a hospital did not help. Eventually, the doctors had to perform colonoscopy to take out the last capsule. He risked his life, sources say, for a commission of Rs 2 lakh.
Strapped to the body
Of late, women carriers, too, are being increasingly used. They bring in gold strapped to their body, or have it concealed in specially designed burqas that have many pockets inside.
This list can go on and on, with cases involving smuggling using TV sets, laptops, mobile battery slots, emergency lamps, pen sets, belts, shoes, cutlery sets... and what not!
Why do people smuggle gold?
Carriers are people who smuggle gold for large networks in the Gulf and India. “We get a commission of Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 per kilo of gold and airfare,” says Shijad, one of the carriers.
“In most cases, middlemen of the networks in the Gulf identify unskilled labourers returning home on leave or because they have lost their jobs. There are many youngsters who come hunting for a job, but end up penniless. Such people would be more than happy to do the job for a return ticket,” he said.
Not that only people in penury become carriers. “Though it is a fact that most of the carriers come from poor economic backgrounds, there are many instances where persons have been lured into becoming carriers for making a fast buck,” says a customs officer in Kochi.
Most carriers are in the 20 to 35 age group.
Customs officers in Hyderabad, too, have been noting a spurt in the use of uneducated women by smuggling networks. “The problem is worsened by the shortage of female customs officers at airports,” says an officer. “We have four customs teams here in Hyderabad, but just one female inspector.”
As smuggling continues unabated, one wonders about the end destination of the contraband.
Reasons for less production in India
The reason India’s production is so low is that it contains only three producing gold mines: Hutti, Uti and Hirabuddini. Last year, the Supreme Court approved a plan to float global tenders to reopen the mines. One contender is Vedanta Resources, which is looking to expand into gold mining and may bid for assets of the now-defunct Bharat Gold Mines. Kolar Gold also hopes to mine in Kolar Gold Fields and the surrounding area in the near future, and is currently conducting exploration.
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