NEW DELHI: Gold smuggling at the Delhi airport has taken a major hit due to demonetisation as the customs seized about 240 kgs of the yellow metal in 2016-17 fiscal, 190 kgs less than the seizure effected in 2015-16.
The demand of gold has traditionally been high in the country as people prefer to invest in it for better returns and due to traditional values.
Nearly 355 cases of gold smuggling were reported at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here during financial year 2015-2016. In these cases, the customs authorities seized 450 kgs of gold, valued at a whopping Rs 132 crore (as per prevailing market rates), a senior customs official had said.
About 190 people were arrested in these cases, he said.
The number of cases of gold smuggling took a hit, especially after demonetisation was announced on November 8 last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the official said.
As a result, about 240 cases of gold smuggling were reported in 2016-17 fiscal. About 260 kgs of gold (as against 450 kgs seizure in the previous financial year), valued at Rs 76.31 crore (as per the current market rate), was seized by the customs at the Delhi airport, he said.
About 100 people were arrested in these cases, the official said.
"There was a major decline in gold smuggling cases during the period of demonetisation and even after that. The primary reason behind it was that the note ban has completely stopped hawala transaction, a major chunk of which is used to illegally bring the yellow metal in the country," he said.
Besides, there has been heightened surveillance at the airport to scan incoming as well outgoing passengers to check smuggling.
"We have caught a lot of people based on intelligence input," the official said.
The customs officials maintain a high vigil at the Delhi airport as it is one of the entry points of the country which registers maximum number of cases of gold smuggling.
In the last two months -- April and May-- of this year, the customs officials have registered more than 15 cases and seized 32 kgs of gold, valuing about Rs 10.27 crore, being smuggled into India from abroad.
As many as 30 people were arrested in these cases, the official said.
Smugglers are adopting novel modus operandi to smuggle gold into the country.
The customs officials had recently arrested a wheelchair-bound senior citizen for allegedly trying to smuggle gold valued at around Rs 93 lakh.
In April, an Air India security officer and a Japanese national were among three persons arrested by the customs for allegedly smuggling into the country gold worth about Rs 2.3 crore.