Muscat: Indian customs officials yesterday arrested a passenger at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Hyderabad, for allegedly trying to smuggle out 1kg of gold worth over Rs3,000,000 (OMR18,573.01).
The air intelligence wing of the customs intercepted the passenger, identified as Shaikh Altaf Mohin (from Mumbai), after he arrived from Muscat. The officials checked his bags and found 1kg of gold dust concealed in different plastic covers and aluminium foil, a customs officer said.
"The gold dust initially appeared to be coffee powder. However, after verification with a special machine, it was found to be gold," the officer said, adding the man was later arrested.
Till now, there have been only reports of Indian gold smugglers being arrested at south Indian airports, especially in Kerala, from among those arriving from Dubai.
In an illegal gold rush in Kerala, over 100kg of smuggled gold has been seized in the past eight months after the centre's checks on gold imports. Close to 60 smuggling cases have been registered. In the past eight months, Kerala's airports have emerged as key entry points for smuggled gold. Many people from the south Indian film industry are being grilled in connection with gold smuggling. Even an airline hostess is in custody for smuggling gold into India.
According to experts, the increase in the import duty has prompted a repeat of the 1970s trend of gold smuggling in India. This time, though, there appear to be several players who are using the smuggling route to fulfil demands by the gold industry.
The Indian government hiked the gold import tariff to $442 per 10 grams from $436 per 10 grams over the past one month. The increase in the import duty on gold to 10 per cent by India has created a gap in the gold prices with places such as Dubai and Thailand where the duty is just one per cent.
Several cases of gold smuggling are being reported from across the country. According to reports, gold seizures are up nearly 400 per cent this year. In the two months of September and October, customs officials seized around a tonne of gold from air travellers. But air travel is just one of the routes.
The Indian demand for gold through unofficial channels has in turn resulted in rising imports by neighbouring countries, especially, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. World Gold Council (WGC) Managing Director (India) P. R. Somasundaram said: "Gold imports were only 85 tonnes in the third quarter against the demand of 148.2 tonnes last year."