Spurt in gold smuggling in Kerala, industry blames policy

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Reuters Reuters
SummaryNearly 90 to 100 kg of gold has been seized by customs officials from passengers in 8 months

Kerala has been witnessing a spurt in smuggling of gold through its airports this year as the yellow metal has become lucrative for smugglers following the hike in the import duty on it to 10 per cent.

In the last eight months alone, nearly 90 to 100 kg of gold has been seized by customs officials from passengers who arrived in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode airports.

According to Customs sources, the gold in different shapes, including molten form, were mostly seized from passengers who arrived from Dubai.

"Gold has become lucrative and a potential contraband for smugglers with hike in duty and restrictions on import," Customs Commissioner, Kochi, K N Raghavan told PTI.

He said vigil in all airports in the state had been stepped up and seizure of gold gone up in recent months.

The government had raised the import duty on gold thrice this year with the rate pegged at 10 per cent in the last revision in August as part of its efforts to curb the surging imports and burgeoning Current Account Deficit.

Dubai, a major global gold trading centre, is the main source of gold being smuggled into India. Low prices, lack of any restrictions on gold purchase and easy air connectivity to Indian destinations made Dubai the favoured city for smugglers to source the precious metal.

According to B Girirajan, President of All Kerala Gold and Silver Merchants Association, fall in availability of gold following restrictions imposed by the Centre is the prime reason for the increase in smuggling.

However, all the gold being smuggled into the country was not going into the jewellery industry but being diverted to other sectors like film industry or go into the hawala route, he told PTI.

He said jewellery business in the state had witnessed a drop of 40 to 50 per cent since July last."One of the reasons for this is the impact of new gold policy. But we are yet to ascertain fully if there are other factors like inflation."

Gold smuggling has become attractive as the profit margin is very high as the carriers are paid Rs one lakh for every kg of the precious metal being brought in.

The smugglers could easily gain a profit of Rs four lakh per kg if they manage to get the metal safely out and route it to market, he said.

Customs have strengthened vigil in airports by reinforcing its intelligence wing and upgrading scanning technologies, Raghavan said.

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