KOCHI: Strict enforcement has resulted in a sharp increase in gold seizures at airports in Kerala despite the shortage of Customs personnel and lack of crucial technical infrastructure to detect gold hidden in human body. Gold seizures have increased by nearly 32 per cent to 141.08 kg in the April-July period, compared to 107.14 kg in the same period in 2018. The value of the gold seized stood at Rs 44.19 crore, as against Rs 32.50 crore worth of yellow metal seized in the same period in 2018.
Calicut International Airport continued to top the list in gold seizures in the first four months of this financial year at 76.6 kg, followed by Thiruvananthapuram airport (23.23 kg), Kochi airport (22.9 kg) and Kannur airport (18.35 kg). “There is a sharp increase in seizure amount and value over last financial year. It may be noted that the seizures of last financial year (2018-19) were much higher than previous years -- 2017-18 and earlier years,” said Sumit Kumar, Commissioner, Customs.
With Kannur airport beginning to function only from December 9, 2018, the data may be higher due to the seizures from this airport this year.“With new advanced scanners, including millimetre technology-based body scanners, face recognition software and more advanced CCTV cameras, and dog squads, the seizure amount will increase by leaps and bounds in coming months. Overall, the Customs field formation and officers have done a commendable job in enforcement,” said Sumit Kumar.
According to him, there are high chances of the smugglers using airports outside the state to smuggle gold into the state whenever the Customs enforcement becomes tough. “It’s like a balloon. When you tighten the grip in a balloon, the air bulge in another space.
The same happens in gold smuggling. When you tighten the grip in state’s airports, the smugglers will find a new area such as the borders of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. We are constrained by our limited space to check the state borders,” the Customs Commissioner admitted.
In terms of the number of cases too, Kozhikode airport topped the chart with 140 cases in April to July period while Kochi airport saw 96 cases and Thiruvananthapuram airport 42 cases.