According to norms, an Indian who has been living abroad for over six months can bring in a kg of gold legally after payment of duty. The duty, which is charged at the rate of 10 per cent, is payable in currency of the nation where the gold was bought.
Besides, a man can also bring in gold jewellery worth Rs 50,000 and women Rs one lakh, without payment of any duty, provided they live abroad for more than a year.
Officials in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), lead agency responsible for checking smuggling and customs duty evasion among others, said at least 3,000 kg of gold has been legally brought into the country after payment of customs duty during 2013-14.
"There has been a rise in people bringing in one kg of gold legally. There is a possibility of an organised gang of hawala operatives who could be exploiting these people after paying money. The PAN card details of these flyers are being shared with Income Tax department to ascertain source of their income and avoid possibility of any wrongdoing," a senior DRI official said.
There is a suspicion that the gold is being sold to bullion traders, they said.
The official cites that there is huge profit in legally bringing gold to India. An individual can make at least Rs two lakh if he sells a kilogram of gold (which costs about Rs 1.61 lakh) bought from foreign nations here.
The DRI officials, who plead helplessness in checking this new modus operandi, are working in close coordination with their customs counterparts to maintain a data of such people. "There is nothing we can do. After all they are paying duty. It is a legal thing," the official said.
While there was no all-India compiled figure available with the DRI on gold brought into the country legally, he said airports in southern part of the country (especially Kerala) are seeing spurt in this activity.
"Field officials have been alerted to keep a check on flyers and bullion traders. We will also seek help of Enforcement Directorate (ED) to check involvement of any hawala dealer in this," the official added.
The high demand of gold has been a matter of concern for Finance Ministry which is grappling to rein in Current Account Deficit (CAD), difference between the outflow and inflow of foreign currency. The CAD touched a historic high of USD 88.2 billion or 4.8 per cent of GDP in 2012-13 and was mainly attributed to high imports of petroleum products and gold.
India, the largest gold consumer in the world, has imported 830 tonnes of gold in 2012-13.