Back-end operation got a whole new meaning on Saturday afternoon when seven men limping out of a Bangkok flight together were caught carrying 44 gold bars worth Rs 2.1 crore in their rectums.
The group had arrived by a Jet Airways flight around 4pm and cleared immigration, but customs officials noticed that all of them were struggling to walk as they made their way down the green channel. Their limp gave away the gold.
“The sight of all seven men limping was so unusual that we would have had to be asleep to miss it,” a customs official said.
The oldest among the seven was the first to be stopped for questioning and it didn’t take long for him to…er…crack under pressure. “The commonest way of smuggling gold through airport scans is by concealing it in the rectum. So we know a smuggler when we see one,” the official said.
The other six men were immediately stopped and checked, revealing that each of them was carrying at least six gold bars weighing around a kilogram.
The gold bars were wrapped in a double coat of black tape with a blue carbon paper in the middle. The smugglers had smeared the packets with lubricant, sources said.
The gold, weighing 7kg and currently valued at Rs 2.1 crore, was 60 times more than the Rs 50,000 worth of gold that each flier is allowed to carry without declaring.
The seven smugglers are from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Calcutta. They were arrested early on Sunday and produced in a city court, which granted them bail.
“We are on strict vigil to identify carriers who frequently visit Bangkok. If there is any suspicion, we conduct a thorough search,” said R.S. Meena, assistant commissioner of customs.
The directorate of revenue intelligence as well as the customs department have reported a spurt in gold smuggling since import duty was raised in August 2013. Before that, the import duty on gold was Rs 22,000 a kg. Now a passenger has to pay 10 per cent of the value as customs duty and 3 per cent as cess, which work out to around Rs 3 lakh a kilogram.
“Most of the gold bars we seize are smuggled in from the UAE, Bangkok and Singapore,” an official said.
Nine gold bars valued at Rs 39.8 lakh had been seized from three Delhi women who arrived by an earlier flight from Bangkok. The women were carrying the bars in their private parts, sources said.
“We keep an eye on flights arriving from Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai. If we find any flier struggling to walk and behaving suspiciously, we stop them,” an official said. According to officials, 77 kg of gold worth Rs 25 crore has been seized from fliers at Calcutta airport since April 2013.
- Carriers: Seven men
- Seized: 44 gold bars concealed in rectum
- Weight: 7kg, each was carrying around six bars
- Value: Rs 2.1 crore