Gold smugglers are back in action in India. The Mumbai airport customs has seized around 73kg gold worth Rs. 19.71 crore between April and October this year, more than double the quantity (31kg gold worth Rs. 9.8 crore) it had seized during the same period last year.
The spurt in smuggling activities is a result of the widening difference in the yellow metal’s price between the domestic market and Dubai. The price gap has gone up to Rs. 5 lakh a kg in the past few months from being Rs. 2.5 lakh a kg in June, and only Rs. 1 lakh before that.
The smuggling syndicates became active in July, after the government imposed stringent conditions to curb gold imports. Gold imports have come down to 7.24 tonnes in September, 23.5 tonnes in October as against an average 80 tonnes a month till July.
“Due to the price gap and restriction on imports, syndicates have intensified smuggling activities,” said a bullion trader.
According to customs officials, syndicates are trying various modus operandi to get the gold out of Mumbai airport without getting caught. “From body concealment to hiding gold in electronic items and in the battery slot of mobile phones, they [smugglers] have tried everything, but failed,” the official said.
“We have been keeping a tight watch on flights arriving from Dubai and Bangkok.”
The frequent crackdown at the Mumbai airport has forced smugglers to move to other cities. In the last one week, more than 40kg gold was seized in two separate incidents at Kolkata and Jaipur.
Kumar Jain, vice president of Mumbai Jewellers Association feels smuggling can be prevented if the government acts. “Gover nment should bring down the import duty, which will minimise the price gap, and in turn help in curbing smuggling,” he said.