Thiruvananthapuram: A hide and seek game has been on over the last year between Customs and other enforcement agencies and smugglers, who have come up with various innovative methods each time to escape their attention at the three international airports of the state.
Whether concealing gold in the mouth or rectum, in honey or grease, as hardware components or hooks of inner wear, they are game for any means to smuggle it into the state.
But they have not been always successful as over the last year alone, Customs and Central Excise, Customs Preventive Unit and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials have foiled bids to smuggle about 250 kgs gold worth about `75 crore into the state.
But the seizures have been possible mainly due to intelligence inputs and sometimes random frisking, making it quite possible that a lot more smuggling goes undetected right under the noses of the enforcement agencies.
While in the past baggage, undergarments and footwear were used to conceal gold, now smugglers sometimes convert gold to liquid and powder form and mix it with grease and honey or even hide gold bars in the form of electronic components inside microwave ovens.
In November last a man from Maharashtra who had come from Dubai was intercepted at the Karippur airport with 27 bottles containing an oil like substance and on interrogation, claimed it was grease for vehicles. But suspicious Customs officials subjected the substance to analysis and recovered 2.5 kgs of gold from it.
Another smuggler was caught bringing in gold in powder form mixed in honey through the Karipur airport.
Hooks and straps of brassieres, buttons of purdahs, and rings of handbags have also been made of gold to slip it through the Thiruvananthapuram, Nedumbasserry and Karippur airports. Going by sources in the enforcement agencies Kerala smugglers employ goldsmiths in the Gulf to fashion it in different forms to escape their notice.
Hiding gold on the body
While concealing gold bars and coins in various parts of the body has been in vogue for long, it has undergone a drastic change today with smugglers now hiding gold in the mouth and even the rectum.
A man from Malappuram was held at Karippur airport in May with eight bars of gold of 100 grams each in his rectum. In April, a Sri Lankan national was held at the Thiruvananthapuram airport with two specially shaped gold bars, weighing about 352 grams, hidden beneath his tongue and was subjected to detailed X-ray examination to rule out presence of more gold in his body.
When gold is smuggled with help of airline staff and security and even enforcement officials, the operation is referred to as a ‘setting.’ Its not very uncommon as a series of attempts at gold smugglingwith the help of airhostess, aircraft cleaning staff or emigration officials have been busted of late. Air India Express flight attendant, 22-year old V S Hiromasa and her friend Rahila Cheerayi who were held by the DRI officers confessed that they had smuggled 39 kgs of gold in four months.
And a security officer at Karippur was caught assisting smugglers, in Thiruvananthapuram. An emigration officer was also arrested after he helped smuggle out gold on various occasions.
Sometimes smugglers have been known to abandon gold either in waste bins in aircraft toilets to allow the aicraft cleaning staff to smuggle it out.
While attractive remuneration lures many to become carriers , the kingpins, who always remain incognito, sometimes resort to blackmailing and threats to force people to assist them.