The government’s attempts to restrict gold imports appear to have activated smuggling syndicates in the country, with the Mumbai customs making yet another seizure of a 1-kg gold bar on Tuesday.
The bar, worth Rs. 27.5 lakh, was hidden inside three underwears worn by a passenger.
This case is the third seizure in the last five days. Officials said recent cases show Bangkok as the new route for smuggling gold, rather than Dubai.
“Syndicates are using Bangkok as the new route instead of traditional Dubai to avoid suspicion,” said a Customs official.
On Tuesday, an Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) batch headed by assistant commissioner Rishi Yadav stopped Mubarak Ibrahim, 27, around 1am, on his arrival from Bangkok by an Air India flight at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
After carrying out a search, officials found the gold bar hidden inside three briefs.
Ibrahim, a salesman with a public limited company in Bangalore, told AIU officials that he had gone to Bangkok for an exhibition in August, where he met a person who offered him Rs10,000 to carry the gold bar. He was also given free air tickets.
Three days ago, Ibrahim returned to Bangkok and had stayed at a hotel where a room had been booked for him.
The gold bar was delivered to him at the hotel room.
Ibrahim told officials that a Dongri-based man was to receive him at the airport and was supposed to call him after his flight landed.
However, when the AIU team checked outside the airport, no one was found. Further questioning revealed that the Dongri-based man was Ibrahim’s acquaintance. Following this, Ibrahim was arrested, but later released on bail.
Meanwhile, Kumar Jain, vice president of the Mumbai Jewellers Association said that if the government did not lift the stringent measures that had been imposed to restrict the import of gold, then the yellow metal would keep coming through illegal routes, especially during the festival and marriage seasons.
According to market experts, gold imports have come down to 51 tonnes in the last two months as opposed to the monthly average of 80 tonnes.