The amount of gold seized at the Mumbai airport had plummeted at the end of 2016, owing to demonetisation. However, experts say the notes ban effect is wearing off and the there has been a rise in cases of gold smuggling this year.
An average of 5kg gold was seized each month from September to November last year. It come down to 2.5kg in December. “ In January, we seized around 18kg gold. We seized 30kg gold in February — the largest haul across the country.We seized 4kg gold in the beginning of March,” said a high-ranking AIU officer.
The cash crunch in the country had a direct impact on the smuggling module. AIU officers said passengers boarding at Dubai were carefully monitored upon their arrival.
The AIU found gold bars worth crores that were left unclaimed. In the past few years, the AIU has found unclaimed gold stuffed in cotton bags concealed inside the rear toilet of the aircraft, the life jacket pouch, the tissue paper holder in the aircraft’s toilets, the immigration counter toilet, below aircraft seat and inside the rear toilet’s oxygen mask cavity. Officials said they have not been able to trace the masterminds. “Smuggling is not always a means to earn easy money. It is also used to sponsor crime in India. What’s worse, it could sponsor terrorism. We are hence vigilant,” said the officer.
Recent investigations revealed that several young people in one of Kerala’s cities have been roped into the racket. They were hired to deceive the authorities. “The language barrier hampers investigations. Now, officers who are well-versed with the language are the ones who conduct the interrogation,” said the officer.
A special watch is being kept on the departures counters after fliers were recently caught smuggling Indian and foreign currencies out of the country.