Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Vizag airport preferred destination for gold smugglers

Visakhapatnam: In June 2015, sleuths from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in Chennai and customs officials at Visakhapatnam airport seized around 62 kg gold bars valued over Rs 20 crore and detained 55 passengers coming from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Till date, it’s the largest seizure of gold at the city airport since it started operating international flights. All the smugglers were from Tamil Nadu.
In April last year, the air intelligence unit of customs at Visakhapatnam airport seized gold pieces weighing 410 grams and worth around Rs 13 lakh from a female Indian-origin passenger, who landed in the city from Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur.

In recent years, there have been many such cases.

The city’s proximity to South East Asian countries and direct connectivity with cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore has made Vizag airport vulnerable to gold smuggling, say officials. As most of these countries have good diplomatic relations with other nations, including India, security checks on flights originating from these countries are lenient, due to which gold smugglers are now targeting smaller airports like Visakhapatnam, they say. “The level of security checks for international flights often depends on the diplomatic relationship of that country to the one the flight is flying to. There are other factors too. For example, security checks are high for flights flying from Dubai to Indian cities.

“But the checks are comparatively lenient for flights from South East Asian cities to Indian cities, and also for flights between Dubai and South East Asian cities. For gold smugglers, travelling from Dubai via South East Asia to India looks to be the safest option,” said an DRI official.

In the last few years, acting on tip-offs and intelligence reports, customs and DRI officials have seized a huge amount of smuggled gold at the city airport. In 2018-19, customs seized 3.32 kg of gold valued at Rs 1.24 crore. “Gold smuggling at Vizag airport is on the rise. The smuggled gold mostly comes from Dubai via South East Asian countries, and most of these smugglers hail from Tamil Nadu,” said a customs officer.
25/06/19 Arpit Basu/Times of India
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