THE AIR Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the customs department at Mumbai’s Chhattrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has recorded a two-fold increase in detection of gold smuggling cases between April 2017 and March 2018, compared to the previous financial year. According to AIU officials, increased surveillance and better strategy to check for erring passengers are behind this. Maintaining that gold, with its increased margins, remains a popular item to be smuggled to India, officials said as the metal is lightweight and can be easily concealed, more cases are recorded.
The data from customs department show that 907 cases of gold seizures were recorded between April 2017 and March 2018, as compared to 301 cases between April 2016 and March 2017. There has also been an increase in the amount of gold being smuggled. The data stated that 442.75 kg of gold was smuggled in the corresponding period as compared to 167.75 kg last year. The total amount of gold seized was worth Rs 11,785 lakh this financial year, compared to Rs 4,566.94 lakh last year.
“We have increased checks and bettered our surveillance… We have also tapped areas that were not covered till now. We have employed different methods to ensure our staff is able to tap as many cases as possible,” a senior AIU official said. On Wednesday, two separate cases of gold smuggling — worth more than Rs 60 lakh — were detected at the airport. While 10 gold bars worth Rs 33.2 lakh were found inside the washroom of an Air India flight from Abu Dhabi, 960 gm of gold was found tied around the waist of a passenger.
“Maximum cases are registered from passengers who travel from Gulf countries, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We have also recorded an increase in such cases from Sharjah, Hong Kong and Bangkok where gold was smuggled by an organised group of passengers,” another official said. Officials said they have increased surveillance on the airline staff and personnel involved in the ground and handling agencies at the airport. By mapping CCTV footage, behaviour of erring staff is detected.
“We are seeking the cooperation of airline staff and security agencies to help us detect more such cases. We are also sensitising the staff to report more cases,” the official said. Among other precious metals, AIU has seized rough diamond worth Rs 3 lakh smuggled last year.