Over $1m of smuggled gold seized at Indian airport

Indian customs officials at Dabolim international airport have intercepted approximately 20 kg of gold being smuggled into the country on a flight from Qatar to Goa.

The Times of India reports it is the largest haul seized by officers since the nation hiked import duties on the precious metal. One customs official claimed the stash is worth 6 crore in rupees, which is just over AU$1 million.

Sources said that a Central Industrial Security Force inspector raised the alarm after spotting an airline loader acting suspiciously on the airport’s CCTV. Subsequently, the individual was found to be in possession of illegal gold.

According to the Times, investigations are still ongoing, but officials are operating under the assumption that passengers on Qatar Airways flight 522 smuggled the gold into the country.

Three people have been arrested, although one other suspect escaped. Officials say they are not sure how many airline employees were involved in the incident.

Commissioner Vasa Seshagiri Rao of Pune and Goa customs is heading the Dabolim airport investigation, with one official stating that it is the first time evidence has indicated airline staff are colluding with smugglers.

“We are on the lookout for one other person who was involved in the crime and believe he may be hiding somewhere close,” the insider commented.

“The suspects in custody are being interrogated and we hope to trace the mastermind of the operation.”

Gold smuggling on the increase

Gold smuggling has risen considerably in India since the nation’s federal government increased import duties from 2 per cent to 10 per cent over a period of several months in 2013.

The move was designed to bring the nation’s current account deficit under control, but gold industry associations and market experts have claimed the charges are stifling businesses and constraining supply.

Buying gold is extremely popular in India, with the precious metal frequently used in jewellery and offered as a wedding gift.

One question gold investors may be asking themselves is how much demand for the precious metal will leap in India once stringent tariffs are relaxed?

After all, Dabolim airport’s seizure is just one of many that have occurred in India during the last year or so. In fact, a further 8 kg of gold was captured at Chennai airport over Sunday and Monday (July 6 and 7).

The contraband was smuggled into the country on four separate flights from Dubai and Kuwait, the Times of India reported.

Passengers had used a number of methods to hide the gold when moving through customs, including stashing the precious metal in Vaseline jars and an old television set. Another individual had gold on his person and in a bag.

Officials were said to be suspicious regarding the TV in particular because it was an out-dated model that would not usually be purchased abroad.

The Times noted that 6.8 kg of the seized gold was in bar form, with the entire 8 kg worth approximately 2.3 core (AU$409,500).

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