In January last year, a middle-aged man with ‘fractured’ feet almost snuck out of the Delhi airport with gold worth over Rs 1 crore.
It was the saffron in his baggage that attracted the attention of customs officials. During checking, the officials noticed the plaster casts on his feet. When the passenger could not convincingly assure the officials as to how he got both his feet injured, they decided to undo the plaster wrap. Hidden neatly inside the plaster, four gold bars were found, weighing 1 kg each.
“It was because of the weight of gold that he was not able to walk properly. Everyone thought that it was because of the injury to his legs,” said a senior customs official.
Gold smugglers have turned innovative as the customs became vigilant to their ingenious tactics in 2016.
From gold bars concealed in baby diapers, to stuffing the precious metal in a papaya, smugglers keep finding newer ways to hoodwink the authorities at the airport. Other dubious ways were gold stitched into a bra, stuffed in the rod of a baby walker, tied along thigh guards and waist.
More than 6 kg gold was seized in 2012-13, This increased exponentially to 384 kg in 2013-14. It touched another record in 2014-15, with the customs officials seizing 574 kg gold. Due to heightened vigil by the customs, the figure came down to 220 kg in 2016, yet smugglers were found trying newer ways every day to bring in the precious metal.
Official said that earlier the most common way of smuggling gold was hiding it in the sole of a shoe. “In 80s and 90s when the gold smuggling was at its peak, smugglers used to often carry gold bars in the shoe sole. The shoes used to be especially customised for smuggling. Later, bags with false cavities were used to hide gold to avoid detection,” an official said.
As per the rule, a woman who has stayed abroad for six months is allowed to carry gold worth Rs 1 lakh. For a male passenger, the limit is Rs 50,000. Beyond the permissible limit, a duty of 10% on gold jewellery and 6% on gold biscuits is levied.
Officials said passengers coming in from the Gulf nations are on top of the suspects’ list.
Apart from technology and latest human surveillance techniques, a strategic change in the location of the green channel also helped the customs arrest gold smugglers at the Delhi airport.
The customs observed that the associates of smugglers used to wait at the arrival hall of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport for them. The smugglers used to hand over the gold to them.
The customs department subsequently shifted the green channel so that people waiting at the entry hall cannot view the customs point.
Gold prices ended steady at Rs 28, 300 per 10 grams on the first trading day of 2017 on Monday over scattered demand from local jewellers. Traders said that absence of cues from global markets, which are closed, mainly kept gold prices unaltered in Delhi.