Mumbai airport sees rise in cases of gold smuggling
377 cases in six months this year compared to 89 in the same period in 2016, data revealsmumbai Updated: Oct 16, 2017 16:25 IST
There were more than four times as many cases of gold smuggling at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) in six months this year than in the corresponding period in 2016, according to the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU).
From April to September this year, the AIU detected 377 cases of gold smuggling, collectively worth Rs39.96 crore and weighing 148.71kg, data revealed.
During the same period last year, in 89 cases, gold weighing 61.455kg and valued at Rs16.77 crore were seized.
In 2015, there were 312 cases reported in the same period, in which gold weighing 230.5kg and worth Rs56.32 crore were seized.
Smugglers conceal the metal in their footwear, mobile phones, DVD players, suitcases, undergarments, clothes and even their rectums.
“The syndicates operate discreetly. There is one set of groups responsible for taking foreign currency to Dubai to purchase gold. There is another set of groups tasked to bring back the purchased gold to the country,” said a source close to the AIU.
Sources have not ruled out the involvement of the infamous underworld, which predominantly smuggled goods through the sea route, but have now turned to the lucrative and seemingly easier air route.
The rise in passenger traffic at the Mumbai airport is increasingly making it difficult for officers to catch smugglers. “On an average, the airport witnesses 25,000 passengers during peak hours,” said an officer.
According to officers, it is nearly impossible to check the luggage of all the passengers as it would delay operations at the airport — among the world’s busiest when it comes to single-runway facilities. “Smugglers from other cities have zeroed in on Mumbai airport where they feel it is easier to sneak through. However, we resort to intelligence and passenger profiling,” said the officer.
Sources said that the biggest challenge at the airport is not only to detect cases but to do so quickly. “Around 70 % of passengers flying to international hubs like Mumbai are transit passengers,” said a source. “Many of them have a window of around three to four hours to board their connecting flight. It’s a risk to hold the passenger and scan him/her.”
The AIU investigations have revealed the places from where gold is mostly smuggled into the country are Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore, apart from Colombo, Muscat, Kuwait, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Madagascar, Mauritius and Nairobi. Some of these places have almost no scrutiny at the airports.