KOCHI: It seems Kochi has turned into a paradise for gold smugglers as the city has outsmarted Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram for the first time in recent history, in terms of the total number of gold smuggling cases registered.
Kochi also tops the chart in terms of the quantity of gold seized and the duty collected by the Customs Department from smugglers, in the first five months of the current fiscal year, leaving Kozhikode far behind.
According to statistics available with the Kochi unit of the Customs Department, enforcement agencies registered 60 cases and seized 72.87 kg of gold, valued around Rs 19.31 crore, at the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) in the first five months of the year. During the period, the Department earned Rs 71 lakh as duty on the seized gold.
During the same period, 26 cases were registered and 54.83 kg of gold, valued around Rs 14.75 crore, was seized at the Kozhikode airport, which finally shed the notorious tag of ‘gold smuggling hub’ and settled in the second position. The Kozhikode airport contributed Rs 40 lakh to the exchequer by way of duty on the seized gold. Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram maintained its third position, where nine cases were registered and 15.69 kg gold valued around Rs 4.18 crore was seized during he five-month period. The value of duty colleted from smugglers at the Thiruvananthapuram airport is Rs 34 lakh.
Speaking to Express, an official in the rank of Deputy Commissioner said the CIAL was witnessing a faster growth in air traffic, compared to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. “Besides, the operation of wide-bodied and midsize aircraft was shifted to the CIAL from Kozhikode in May this year, in connection with runway re-carpeting work at Kozhikode. These factors have contributed to the recent spurt in gold smuggling cases in Kochi,” he said.
According to him, the Customs Department often fails to go beyond arresting the couriers and racketeers involved in gold smuggling cases, which in turn encourages smugglers.
A senior official in the Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch, Customs, said money-launders and international drug peddlers were increasingly using gold as a medium for money exchange.
It has to be noted that even after the Customs Department recently busted a huge racket and arrested 35 persons, including many airport employees, in connection with smuggling of over 2,500 kg of gold though the CIAL, illegal gold is still flowing to the State through the airport.