Smuggling of gold from Arabian Gulf countries, especially the United Arab Emirates, into the State continues unabated despite an increased vigil by the law enforcement agencies.
If some of the links involved in smuggling rackets can be trusted, hardly 10% of the gold brought into the State through Kerala’s airports is seized by the Customs and the police.
Although police sources do not admit that much of the gold smuggled in with the help of carriers reach the gold mafia, they agree that there was a spurt in the illegal trans-Gulf gold trade in recent months. In tune with the increase in gold smuggling, the hawala movement, dacoity and robbery too increased considerably in the State.
District Police Chief Sujith Das S. told The Hindu that it was a recent spurt in highway robberies and attacks involving gold and hawala gang members that made him shift focus to the Calicut airport. Dozens of carriers and their base-level agents were arrested by the police in Malappuram in the last five months, and contraband worth many crores of rupees was seized.
In the latest seizure made on Tuesday, the police recovered 2.57 kg gold from two passengers who reached the Calicut airport on separate Air India flights from Dubai. “It is hard to find a Dubai flight without one or two carriers,” said a senior airport official.
“You just go and wait outside the arrival terminal in Kozhikode. You can easily find carriers being whisked away by agents,” said a Customs officer on condition of anonymity. At the same time, Customs officials admitted that staff shortage was posing a severe handicap for them at the airport.
“When we tightened screening, people started complaining. We don’t have any magic vision to catch smugglers who resort to all possible methods to avoid detection. We regularly seize smugglers though,” said the Customs officer.
One of the two carriers arrested by the police on Tuesday was a 47 year old. He was trying to smuggle 1.57 kg gold bars in a microwave oven. The police had to use a metal cutter to break open the compartment in which the gold was hidden.
In the second case, four capsules of gold weighing 974.7 grams were seized from a 32-year-old man. He had smuggled in the gold by hiding the capsules in his rectum. However, at the airport, he shifted the contraband into his shoes. The police recovered two capsules from each of his shoes.