The tactics of gold smugglers have undergone a sea change. Earlier, they would conceal gold in shoe soles, have false cavities in bags and even stuff it inside body cavities. These days, they use women to smuggle it in as jewellery.
But nearly 10 days ago, Customs officials stumbled upon yet another innovative smuggler. He tried to smuggle in gold in the form of pins stapled on cartons. The incident has now made the Customs department more vigilant and they are now treating this latest episode as a case study.
The department will soon issue circulars to airports across the country on such 'innovative' modus operandi to make them more alert.
"We managed to detect the gold stapler pins due to the efficiency of our officers. The smuggler had three boxes and we had checked all of them, but found nothing. We even opened the TV set to see if the gold was hidden inside," said a senior customs official.
He said that this was the latest method of smuggling in gold and they are expecting smugglers to soon adopt it. "The scope for large-scale smuggling no more exists. Earlier, even airline staff used to be hand-in glove with the smugglers," the official said.
Earlier, the most common method was hiding gold in shoe soles. "In the 80s and 90s, when gold smuggling was at its peak, several smugglers were caught with gold bars in their shoe soles. Later, bags with false cavities to hide gold were used," the official added.
When this flopped, the smugglers chose the easiest and safest way of smuggling in gold -- in the form of jewellery. "The smugglers started using women as carriers. We started noticing passengers, especially women, wearing too much jewellery. But we can't check every passenger and many of them still manage to clear the Customs," the official said.
The gold limit for women passengers has been increased from R20,000 to R1 lakh and for men from R10,000 to R50,000 this financial year. Last year, 20 passengers were stopped and fined. A few were even arrested for carrying gold jewelry without declaring it. The number is expected to increase this year.