NEW DELHI: The surge in the smuggling of gold across the country post-demonetisation has left enforcement sleuths baffled. The interception and subsequent disclosure of new modus operandi is a clear signal that gold has replaced the cash in the country’s crime syndicate.
The unprecedented seizures in the past few months have also begun to shatter assumptions that the allure of yellow metal has diminished among criminals and underworld.
On December 11, three people at Imphal airport were ready to board Kolkata-bound Indigo Flight 6E-875. Azmol, Noor Mohammed and Sahid were travelling separately. But all three were carrying two pieces of gold each weighing 1.73 kg in their rectum.
Azmol is a resident of Karimganj, Assam, Noor is from Virugambakkam, Chennai, and Sahid is from Tengnoupal, Manipur. All three, sources said, were acting as courier for the same criminal network. Imphal, they claimed, was becoming a source point to convert cash into gold which is later smuggled to various destinations.
On November 25, Deepak Sharma was about to board the Kolkata-bound Indigo Flight 6E-202 at Imphal. Around 9.37 in the morning, the hand held detector at frisking gave away Sharma and 6 gold biscuits weighing 1 kg were recovered from his rectum. A courier, Pappu Singh, belonging to the same smuggling ring, was arrested on November 13 from Mumbai with 3 kg gold.
“We have seen unprecedented rise in gold smuggling since December 2016. Though, we are still in the process of compiling the data to compare the seizures with previous years, but it is clear that the seizures in 2017 are going to be twice-thrice the previous years. Till December first week, recovery from Delhi alone was 140 kg. The data from Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Imphal airports are still being analysed,” a Customs official said.
Sources said the government’s tight regulation and monitoring of cash transactions could be a major reason for the spurt in gold smuggling as the yellow metal is being seen as a safer bet.
The new modus operandi being used frequently by the couriers is to conceal the gold biscuits in the rectum and not in the shoes. “And most importantly, Imphal is under the scanner for emerging as a safe haven for smugglers,” a senior official said.
On September 15, six passengers were escorted to a custom’s interrogation room. A team of investigators from Air Intelligence Unit, Customs and Central Industrial Force were perplexed when the six men broke down and admitted to carrying 5.97 kg gold concealed in their rectum.
A month later on October 12, three passengers travelling to Kolkata from Imphal by an Indigo flight were arrested. A team of Intelligence Bureau, CISF and Customs recovered 3.2 kg of gold from their rectum.
“They belong to a network operating in Kolkata and Mumbai. Since we are investigating the other modules, I can confirm this network was set up after demonetisation and has recruited couriers in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal and Pune,” the official added.