New Delhi, Sep 20: Smuggling syndicates are luring newly married couples to sneak gold into the country as part of a new modus operandi to avoid suspicion of customs authorities.
A couple from Gujarat was recently arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport with 1.5 kg of gold jewellery which they were trying to smuggle in return for flight tickets from a foreign nation where the yellow metal comes cheap, besides Rs 20,000 each.
"Acting on inputs, we caught the couple on their arrival from Thailand. They were found wearing three gold 'kadas' (bangles) each on their ankles. They were arrested for smuggling the gold into the country," Additional Commissioner of Customs (IGIA) Vinayak Azad told PTI.
During interrogation, the couple claimed to have been lured into smuggling by a jeweller, who was also travelling on the same flight. "On their tip-off, the jeweller has also been arrested. He has admitted to the crime," Azad said.
Gold worth about Rs 40 lakh has been seized and all the accused, who hail from Ahmedabad, have been arrested. The couple, in their early 20s, had gone abroad for the first time.
"They are not from very well off family. They claimed to have been provided a free trip to Thailand and Rs 20,000 each," the official said.
The incident indicates that the smugglers have started using poor Indian couples to smuggle gold to avoid suspicion, another senior customs official said. Earlier, poor Afghan nationals were being used to smuggle gold into India.
A total of 4,400 cases of gold smuggling were registered in the country during 2014-15. About 4,480 kgs of the precious metal valued at about Rs 1,120 crore was seized and 252 people arrested, as per official figures.
870 cases of gold smuggling were registered in 2012-13, five times less than those in 2014-15, and about 400 kgs of yellow metal worth Rs 100 crore seized.