Ingenious techniques adopted by gold smugglers in recent times have compelled government agencies to wake up and smell the coffee. Many of these modes were listed in a recent meeting of representatives from economic intelligence and tax departments in Goa on June 2.
“Gold, in the form of minute dust, is mixed with coffee powder and kept in sealed cans, and brought to the market. Even through X-ray testing the presence of gold dust in the coffee powder cannot be identified. This is mainly found in Mangalore and Ahmedabad,” the minutes of the meeting said.
Another increasingly favoured modus operandi is the ‘underwater’ method, especially popular in the western coast for pushing gold via the sea route, where the contraband is left submerged for days.
“Gold brought through ships will be lying in the vessel or under water for many days, and on a subsequent safe and convenient day, it will be brought to the market for circulation,” the document said.
In yet another ingenious technique, gold sheets are brought in by placing them between zinc sheets to avoid detection even through thorough scanning.
“Scrap zinc sheets are brought by sea route to certain south Indian ports. Gold plates are kept above zinc sheets and covered with sand casing and again sheathed with steel and zinc coating. It is not possible to detect that gold is inside the sheets,” the report said, adding that 15-16 such consignments have been found, with Chennai alone accounting for almost a tonne of gold.
With gold import duties at a very high 10%, India is witnessing a big spurt in smuggling of the yellow metal through air and sea. According to the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI), gold smuggling has spiked 446% in the first five months of 2014.
At Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, which has become a gold smuggling hub, more than 75 cases have been registered since August 2013, leading to more than 25 arrests and confiscation of 75 kg of contraband gold.
“Most carriers detected are from Kasargod in Kerala, in the 20-25 age group, and are commonly referred to as the Kasargod Gang. Their smuggling methods range from the common concealment in the alimentary canal to hiding gold plates inside talcum powder cans, speakers and other electronic devices, metal-coating the gold, or using metal boxes to escape detection, etc,” the document said.