New Delhi, July 17: Recently a constable working with the customs department in the Kochi international airport was arrested in connection with a gold smuggling racket. The probe went to reveal several details which show how deeply infested this racket of gold smuggling has become in Kerala.
Gold is brought in from the Gulf in the form of ornaments and then exchanged for bars which is later sold in various places.
The thriving gold smuggling industry:
Since the past couple of months instances of gold smuggling have increased ten fold. There is a great demand for gold especially in the state of Kerala where jewellers are found in large numbers. Jewellers in Kerala are able to sell gold ornaments at a lower cost as they save Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh a kilogram due to smuggling.
The entire modus operandi suggests that there are a host of mules who carry the gold from Gulf and bring it down to India. No longer are the gold bars and biscuits being brought down from the Gulf. It all comes in the form of ornaments, a senior customs official informed.
Bringing the gold in ornament form is a less risky option for smugglers. On one flight three to four persons part of the same gang transport three to four kilograms of gold. They normally try and pass it off by saying it is for personal use if they are caught.
Tapping the markets:
Once the gold ornaments land in Kerala it is picked up by jewellers. Sometimes they pay in cash or exchange it with bars. The bars are then taken to different states such as Kolkata and Maharashtra and sold. It appears like a fool proof transaction.
Recent transactions have also been tracked to Ahmedabad as well and the questioning of an operative by the name Noushad revealed how the racket was spread across the country. The biggest market is in Kerala he tells his interrogators. We have some big names of jewellers who are involved in this racket an officer informed.
The officer said that there are at least 8 different probes which is going on in Kerala related to gold smuggling. All these probes have indicated a modus operandi similar to each other. The recent incident in which a constable from the customs department was arrested also revealed that many officials were part of this racket.
The stakes are very high and with jewellers saving nearly Rs 15 lakh a kilogram by avoiding customs and duty, it has become a major money spinner. Investigators say that there are nearly 300 mules appointed by various jewellers spread across Kochi, Tiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam. The gold route from the airport when tracked have reached the three places that have been mentioned above the officer also informed.