A new and innovative method for smuggling gold from the Middle East into India involves the use of specially-designed vests worn under burqas by young women recruited as gold mules by smugglers, senior Indian airport security officials are claiming.
With the Indian Government having recently raised the customs duty on gold from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, moving gold illegally into the country from the Gulf is now once again being seen as a lucrative option.
This has led to a spate of arrests at airports involving women flying in from the Gulf trying to conceal gold bars on their persons.
In the latest incident, the Air Customs Unit of Nedumbassery International Airport in the south Indian state of Kerala detained two young female passengers who flew in from the UAE with gold bars weighing 20kg, hidden in specially designed jackets worn under their burqas.
“The ladies were hiding gold biscuits in the pockets of these special jackets that they were wearing. Initially, the customs officer thought the metal detector was beeping because of the small gold chain the passengers were wearing.
“But on a detailed check, the gold was found,” a customs official was quoted as saying.
This is not the first case at the Nedumbassery International Airport in Kochi Kerala.
India’s Directorate General of Revenue Intelligence has therefore alerted all international airports to be vigilant.
The smuggling operation now seems to mirror that of ‘drug mules’ used to move illegal substances from South America and Africa to the US, Europe and parts of Asia.
Special agents recruit unemployed people and bring them into the Gulf on visit visas.
Young ladies are especially targeted by gold smugglers as easy carriers and are offered foreign currency, air tickets, and the special jackets to hide the gold, burqas and the promise of a cut of the profits on reaching India.
One such mule was quoted in the Indian press as saying a commission of Rs25,000 for each kg of gold smuggled to India was the offer.
The mules can also be men, in which case gold is hidden in socks, shoes, undergarments and even children’s pampers.
An agent will meet the mule outside the airport to pick –up the contraband and take back any extra money provided to clear customs.
One lady was recently arrested from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, with 1.5kg of gold in the metallic casing of her hand bag.
Another man was caught with gold bars hidden in a cotton belt that he was wearing around his waist.
In the last one week alone, Air Customs Authorities have caught 32kg of gold bars from passengers trying to smuggle the yellow metal through Kochi and Karippur International Airports in Kerala alone.
Increased gold smuggling cases are also being reported from other international airports in India, like the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.