KOCHI: Though Diwali is not celebrated on a large scale in the state as it is in north India, the gold smuggling sector in the state seems to be witnessing 'a storm after the lull' coinciding with the festival of lights. Last week alone, 15 people who were trying to smuggle gold into the state were intercepted by Customs sleuths at the Cochin International Airport LTD (CIAL).
Just a day after the Air Intelligence Unit at CIAL seized 3.18 kg of gold worth Rs 97.77 lakh, in three separate incidents, officers on Tuesday arrested a passenger for attempting to smuggle gold weighing around 1 kg in the form of small rectangular pieces concealed in hair bands. Speaking to Express, a senior Customs officer said though the spurt in smuggling does not have any direct connection with Diwali, there has been a significant increase in the smuggling of gold into the state in the last couple of weeks. If in the past, smugglers brought in big quantities of gold in a single attempt, now carriers were bringing in smaller quantities which are easier to carry and conceal. Also, if the consignment is intercepted, their loss is limited, he said.
According to the official analysis, the margin for the gold is relatively high in the domestic market compared to gold prices in the Middle East for the time being, which is one of the main reasons for the sudden spurt in smuggling attempts. Around 10 per cent customs duty and 3 per cent CESS is charged per kg of gold which would be around Rs 2.5-3 lakh as per the current bullion prices.
Officers suspect even after a large number of seizures were made by customs of late, the smugglers' attitude to forego the loss they incurred in the seizures suggest either the small catches are diversionary tactics and they have been smuggling large quantities through other means. However, they are quite sure the big-time gold smuggling that existed between the Gulf and Kerala in the past has almost come to an end, although the flow of small quantities of black market bullion through the airports still refuse to die down fully.