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Sunday, February 09, 2014
Gold smugglers turn creative to beat law
[Editor: Some persons in high places are probably getting some benefits out of increased smuggling activities in India. A friend of mine, commented yesterday in Facebook, that Indian Policies on Gold Imports are now probably guided by the likes of "Dawood Ibrahim-Gang," who wants an artificial scarcity, to push their items through, secret conduits in India, at a high premium. Also, as mentioned earlier too, there might be officials in the government or politicians who are benefiting from any such clandestine deal. Or else, the government of India's argument of Gold Control to fix the CAD, does not look too convincing; especially when most of the opposition parties are maintaining a stoic silence on this vital issue]
Financial intelligence agencies say the past one year has seen some of the most outrageous modus operandi by smugglers that have included methods requiring a lot of time and expenses indicating how lucrative smuggling of gold has become. This fiscal has already seen an almost 300% rise in gold smuggling compared to last and is expected to continue the rally, say sources.
Following the 10% levy of import duty on gold, heavy smuggling due to unabated demand was expected and agencies have been cracking down heavily leading to smugglers devising new ways. Till December this fiscal, agencies had seized Rs 250 crore worth of smuggled gold at various ports and airports. In the same period last fiscal, agencies had mopped up only Rs 50 crore worth of smuggled gold. For the whole of 2012-13, the figure stood at only Rs 100 crore.
According to sources in Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), only two months ago, a passenger coming from Dubai was intercepted at Pune airport with a huge consignment of dates. Agencies had information that he was carrying gold but could not find it anywhere on his person or baggage. A close examination of the dates by ripping them open, however, revealed that it had seeds of gold. A total of 400 g of gold was recovered.
Similarly, a couple of weeks ago, customs in Bangalore found a consignment of chairs coming in by air cargo to be suspicious. When the chairs were ripped open, its springs turned out to be made of gold weighing 1.5 kg. Last week, authorities at Ahmedabad airport apprehended 5 kg gold being brought in as ore, for which one has to cough up only 5% duty.
"Smugglers are taking great pains in hiding gold. One passenger was caught recently wearing a belt with 1 kg gold buckle. He had plated it with rhodium which ensured even the metal detector does not find it. Another one had turned his gold into battery shapes to fit in torches. We would not have caught them if we did not have prior intelligence," said a DRI official.