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43kg gold seized in 2 years at Chandigarh international airport

With most recoveries remaining unclaimed, agencies finding it difficult to link conduits with smugglers.

punjab Updated: Jul 16, 2018 09:34 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Chandigarh international airport,Chandigarh airport,Seizure at Chandigarh airport
(Representative Image)

As much as 43kg gold worth ₹13 crore has been seized at the Chandigarh airport since international operations began here in September 2016.

While 22kg of the yellow metal was recovered from passengers by the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) — country’s premier anti-smuggling agency, the remaining 21kg was found by the customs, which forms the first line of defence against smuggling at the airport.

The total number of cases reported in these two years is 40 so far, according to the two agencies.

Why smuggling is rampant
  • Gold smuggling is rampant due to its high purity and lesser price in Dubai and Bangkok markets as compared to India. The price difference can be as high as ₹5 lakhs per kg, which translates into an equivalent profit for the smugglers. The smugglers or their couriers disguise themselves as genuine passengers to escape the customs duty.
  • What’s the modus operandi: The smugglers have adopted various ways to sneak gold into the country through the airport. It includes concealing it in their rectum, the riskiest of all modus operandi. Gold has also been found concealed as the structure of iron presses, parts of vacuum cleaner, buttons on the shirt and in various other forms.

All cases are being adjudicated at the level of zonal commissioner but those caught are not coming forward to claim the gold despite show-cause notice in most cases, said a customs official involved in gold seizures.

The official, who did not wish to be named, said most of those arrested carrying gold are conduits. “Only if they claim gold, the authorities can establish the link between them and smugglers,” he said.

According to the rules, those caught with gold (over the permissible limit) are handed it back after paying a heavy penalty besides 36% customs duty. Whatever profit they plan to make through smuggling thus gets negated.

Meanwhile, if the commissioner refuses to release gold, the person can file an appeal before the customs tribunal and then the high court.

Only 2 of 40 cases reached court

According to the customs law, a smuggler is prosecuted only if the gold seizure is above ₹1 crore. Otherwise, it is a bailable offence.

Only two cases of gold recoveries have reached the Mohali district courts so far. One was the seizure of 8kg gold on January 30 this year, in which two people were produced before the chief judicial magistrate, and the other was the recent recovery of 7kg gold from a Bathinda man on July 3.

In both cases, the DRI had made the seizures. While all accused later got bail, the chargesheet in the January 30 case is pending while the July 3 case is under investigation.

An investigating official said prosecution norms in the customs law should be made more stringent to instil fear among smugglers.

“At present, in 90% cases, the seizure is below ₹1 crore. The accused easily get bail. They also somehow manage to get the gold released at a later stage through courts,” he said.

First Published: Jul 15, 2018 15:15 IST