Mumbai: The number of gold smuggling cases registered at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport has seen an evident increase when compared to the figures recorded to its preceding year. According to the figures acquired from the Mumbai Customs’ Air intelligence Unit (AIU) they have seized around 731 kg of gold worth Rs 188.79 crore and registered 1844 cases in 2018. Sources said figures recorded in 2017 was 789 kg of gold worth Rs 171.24 crore which was crossed in mid-October, last year itself.
The continuous vigilance and placements of various officials for passenger profiling has led to not only the seizure of smuggled yellow metal on the international airport, but also seizure of over 190 kg of various banned drugs worth over Rs 10 crore. The AIU arrested a total of 162 passengers on the international airport for smuggling gold, including 103 Indian nationals and 59 foreign nationals. However, the detection of passengers smuggling narcotic drugs was relatively less, with a total of seven arrests, including three Indian nationals and four foreign nationals.
The other goods smuggled by the passengers include high-end electronic equipment like television sets, mobile phones, laptops and I-pads. The AIU booked 555 passengers for smuggling these goods and seized valuables worth Rs 12.83 crore.
With an increasing rate of gold smuggling cases reported at the international airport, the airport security has stepped up its vigilance which profiles a million passengers flying in and out of the country, on a daily basis.
The most number of smuggling cases have been reported from the passengers coming from middle-east countries like Dubai, Riyadh, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and other countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, Korea and Bangkok. However, an official said that the gold coming from these countries is completely pure and unadulterated, which makes it all the more valuable in the smuggled gold market.
Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Mumbai Airport Customs Commissioner, V Rama Mathew, said that there have been various changes in the trends of smuggling, wherein gold is concealed under seats, inside seat belt buckles, on board dustbin and various other places.
Mathew said, “People are getting extremely creative when it comes to finding out ways to smuggle gold and other goods. The smuggling pattern has changed with passengers concealing it in hairbands, belts, headphones and other small and regular things that are otherwise very normal to carry.” An official told the Free Press Journal that the passengers have shifted the smuggling apparatus from on-person passenger to smuggling it on aircraft with the help of an inside person, which could easily go undetected.
In a bid to increase the revenue coming from the customs and availing the best service to its passengers, the airport officials have also come up with new initiatives like ‘Swipe and Pay’ option for paying customs duty at the airport, as not many foreign nationals carry Indian currency when they land at the airport.
In an interesting incident that occurred on the Mumbai International Airport, one of the passengers had a concealed the smuggled gold inside a diaper and painted it with yellow colour, to portray it as excreta of a baby. Considering it as baby poop, officials were refraining from touching it. Luckily, one of the officials, a toddler’s father, figured out the diaper had yellow paint on it and not toddler’s excreta. After checking, it was revealed that there was 3 kilograms of gold concealed in the diaper.
As far as the creativity of people goes in terms of hiding the smuggled goods, one of the passengers had concealed around 5 kg of gold in a fresh hollowed pumpkin and kept it with them while travelling. However, when it going through the metal detector the gold somehow went undetected and was carried in the aircraft. Much to the passenger’s dismay, when the air crew in the airlines tried to take the pumpkin, the reluctance of passenger gave his gait away and it was then revealed that the hollowed pumpkin had gold concealed in it.
The airport officials have also asked for upgraded metal detectors and handheld metal detectors to detect a special chunk of gold, which when mixed with a compound, goes undetected at the airport, no matter how many metal detectors it passes through. Only physical frisking and passenger profiling are helpful to detect the people having carried such a metal mixed with a compound.