Despite the pandemic-induced flight restrictions, the Customs Air Intelligence Unit seized a record 200 kg of gold at the Calicut International Airport last fiscal.
Official sources told The Hindu on Thursday that the Customs had seized 200.04 kg of gold valued at ₹87.92 crore in 241 cases registered from April 2021 to March 31, 2022. Of this, 144.41 kg were retrieved in compound form which smugglers having been adopting for quite some time to dodge metal detectors and X-ray machines.
In fact, the Calicut airport remains the second gateway, behind Chennai, for gold smuggling. Around 55 kg of the yellow metal were seized from 77 passengers, including seven women, in the past three months. Nearly 95% of those who attempted to smuggle gold were passengers of inbound flights from Gulf countries.
Incidentally, gold seizure at the airport was only 147 kg during 2000-2021. The seizures post-COVID were 262 kg and 219 kg in 2019-20 and 2018-19 respectively.
A majority of cases were booked against passengers who arrived from Dubai and Sharjah. However, it was also observed that gold smuggling was mostly through Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Sources said the State police had also intensified their focus on gold seizures after it was found that gangs were involved in a smuggling bid following an accident at Ramanattukara that claimed five lives in June last year. Gangs from Koduvally (Kozhikode) Cherpulassery (Palakkad), and Kannur are suspected to be part of the racket that attempted to smuggle 2.5 kg of gold from the airport.
In the past few months, the police in Malappuram district seized contraband from groups that managed to slipped through the Customs check at the airport. Similarly, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has been actively engaged in anti-smuggling drives.
Officials said that foreign currency valued at ₹1.28 crore and unaccounted Indian currency worth ₹26.37 lakh were also seized during the previous fiscal.
Gold smuggling through the Calicut airport had gone up manifold in the past decade. The growth of the jewellery sector, huge domestic demand for gold, and high import duties have triggered a sharp increase in smuggling. Besides, quick and high returns propel gold smuggling syndicates in north Kerala, sources said.