Saturday, September 25, 2021

Gold smuggling thrives during pandemic, courtesy vulnerable expats

Tiruchy:  Even as the aviation industry globally took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, gold smuggling seems to have continued unabated, with the kingpins even making use of repatriation flights and vulnerable expatriates to carry out their illegal activities.

According to sources, between April 2020 and March 2021, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Tiruchy international airport registered 98 cases of gold smuggling and recovered yellow metal worth Rs 28 crore. Similarly, between April 2021 and July 2021, the AIU at the airport registered 45 gold smuggling cases and made recoveries to the tune of Rs 15 crore.

Several of the smuggling rackets preyed on expats, who lost their jobs during the pandemic, for transporting the gold. Many of these carriers transport the yellow metal in their body, unaware of the health consequences. The smugglers also took to carrying it in paste form to evade metal detectors, but the Customs has cracked many such cases.

"The Customs is already considering the challenges of detecting gold paste. There are plans to use a 360 degree- or whole body scanner at airports here. This would help the Customs to crack more cases in the future. We would soon have such scanners in our airport," an official said.

According to sources carriers transporting gold paste in their body (anus or vagina) would lead to several medical issues. "Most of these carriers will be in a lot of pain. They will be able to transport about 1kg of gold in their body, for which they might get about Rs 30,000. But most of these people risk internal injuries and will have to spend a lot on treatment. Many carriers are unaware of such issues," a source said.

Further, those into such activities convince youth to become carriers, promising to get them bail if caught.

One can get arrested if transporting gold worth Rs 20 lakh and above. However, they can apply for bail. But it is not as easy. To get bail, one has to give a guarantee of Rs one lakh, and the personal guarantee of two persons. The offender’s passport would get blacklisted and they would not be able to go abroad again as police would not issue a no-objection certificate, a Customs official said, adding that they will also not be able to enter any government service. “If an accused escapes from India, a blue corner notice would be issued and the person would be brought back from whichever country he is hiding in," the official added.

Sources also pointed to the pandemic turning several desperate expats, who had lost their jobs, to the illegal activity -- enabling the kingpins of smuggling rackets to remain safe.

25/09/21 Jose K Joseph/New Indian Express

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