VISAKHAPATNAM: Stature comes with a price. The Visakhapatnam airport, which was accorded international airport status two years ago has reported a spurt in gold smuggling with the increase in international operations. Starting with a single flight to Dubai two years ago, the Port City now witnesses 13 international operations a week. But it seems with more international operations gold smugglers are finding a favourable destination in Visakhapatnam. During the last nine months, the customs officials have seized over 13.5 kgs of gold and arrested 13 persons while attempting to sneak in gold bars. According to the customs sources, incidence of gold smuggling has tripled during the last two years after the Union government raised the import duty on the yellow metal to 10 per cent.
Earlier, when the import duty was 2 per cent, the air passengers used to bring gold from abroad legally by paying the import duty. However, as the import duty was hiked steeply, there was a spurt in gold smuggling. After Vizag got air connectivity to Dubai smugglers found a favourable destination in the Port City as it was not a busy airport.
According to the sources, gold is being smuggled to Visakhapatnam from Dubai via Hyderabad. The contraband gold is often handed over to domestic passengers, who board the same flight in Hyderabad and arrive in Visakhapatnam. As they are domestic passengers they won’t be subjected to rigorous frisking at the airport.
“Yes, we are witnessing a spurt in gold smuggling at Visakhapatnam airport. The smugglers can earn a profit of `3 lakh if they succeed in smuggling 1 kg of gold. We are registering cases and are keeping tight vigil. However, sometimes they succeed in their attempt to hoodwink us. The Visakhapatnam city police have also seized smuggled gold while being transported to Chennai,” a senior official noted.
“International airports in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore have witnessed a steep increase in gold smuggling activity in recent times. But of late the smugglers are attracted to Visakhapatnam airport. The gold is being handed over to domestic passengers who board the flight at Shamshabad airport”, the customs official added. The police department is also keeping a tab on the smugglers. According to police sources, the smuggled gold is not meant for Visakhapatnam. It is being transported to other destinations in South India.
In a recent incident, some passengers who arrived in Visakhapatnam by a direct flight from Dubai handed over one kg of gold bars to a local contact. They were successful in deceiving the customs officials.
But the gold was stolen by some miscreants who had prior information while it was being transported to Chennai by road. Eventually they landed in the police net.s