KOCHI: The novel ways smugglers adopt to bring in gold through airports across the country have baffled the Customs Department. They were in for a shock recently on finding the yellow metal was being smuggled in paste form. Similar cases increase in number, leaving the Customs perplexed as they find it a bit tough to arrest the flow of gold paste which eludes metal detectors at airports.
Last week, the Customs nabbed a Kasargod native who brought in gold paste through the Nedumbassery airport. It weighed 851 gm and was worth Rs 26.3 lakh. Complex chemicals were added to it and the paste was put in belt-shaped packets which could be worn around the waist.
“We’re getting a number of cases. The gold paste goes undetected on our metal detectors. We’re gathering information how this paste is formed. Cases have been reported at the Nedumbassery, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram airports. Based on intelligence information, we intercept the people bringing gold in this form. We’ve to carry out manual body checking to detect such gold consignments,” said Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar.
Another Customs officer said gold is turned into paste with the help of chemical experts, including from Kerala. “This mode of smuggling is a real concern for us since it eludes metal detectors,” said the officer.
A sizeable quantity of gold can be smuggled by adopting the ‘paste’ method, according to a Customs officer.“As many as 750 gm of gold can be extracted from one kg of paste,” said the officer.Not everybody is happy with the body checking done solely on the basis of suspicion.
“The officer has to touch the waist of the person carrying the gold paste before asking him to undergo body scanning. Not all passengers are willing to cooperate. The recent cases were detected with the help of intelligence information and on suspicion,” he said.
Earlier, smugglers used to hide gold in the rectum, innerwear and socks. It was cleverly concealed in electronic goods as well. “They keep changing the methods. But the officers are quickly learning the tricks adopted by smugglers and foiling their plans,” said Sumit.
The Customs Department has also decided to enhance the intelligence gathering system. It has announced a hefty award, including 20-30 per cent market value of the seized gold, to people who provide information. “Any information related to smuggling is vital for us. We’re providing training to people associated with airports to enhance surveillance system at airports,” he said.
During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, 87 kg of gold to the tune of `26.97 crore was recovered by Cochin Customs covering airport, seaport and Special Economic Zone. As many as 254 cases were detected by the Customs in Kochi during this period.