Hyderabad: A 36-year-old man from Tamil Nadu landed in Hyderabad from a Singapore flight in January 2017. He seemed nonchalant but the numerous LED lamps in his luggage made Customs officials at the airport suspicious.
Officials profiled his travel history and found that he had booked the next flight from Hyderabad to Chennai. His movements appeared furtive, and the officials decided to subject him to the metal detector test. Bull’s eye! It led to the seizure of 20 gold bars, all weighing about 100 gm. Eight gold bars were hidden in the LED lamps while 12 gold bars were concealed in his rectum! All in all, a total of 2 kg gold.
In December 2016, officials foiled a smuggling attempt on a tip-off. The South Zone Police of Hyderabad received a tip-off that two Hyderabad people were smuggling in gold. In a joint operation, police along with Customs officials, identified the suspects and found that they had concealed gold bars in their undergarments.
Half of the gold seizures at the airport are based on credible information the Customs department gathers from various sources wit-hin the country and abroad. Information on smuggling is also provided by various agencies like DRI, Police, Emigration and an informer chain spread across different locations.
Customs officials say that though they act on tip-offs in almost half the cases, they also follow other techniques to zero in on suspects. These techniques, however, do not always apply to seasoned smugglers who know how to react when in trouble and who can get help from contacts in various departments at the airport. Officials say in addition to technical support, human intelligence plays a major role in identifying these smugglers.
Profiling of passengers based on the frequency of their travel and destinations also helps. A senior customs official at the airport said: “In some cases where passengers are caught with smuggled goods in their baggage, they are mostly innocent and are given the baggage by some agents abroad under the guise of some goodies or even a free ticket. But those who conceal gold in their body or on their person are aware that they are smuggling.”
But tracing a person carrying gold in the body without a tip-off is extremely difficult. And taking each passenger through the metal detector test or check may take 10 minutes.
“If the passenger is found clean, the checks may be seen as harassment and may create new trouble. One has to be very alert. Using experience and human intelligence is a must,” said another official.
Officials said that before any flight takes off, passenger data is uploaded in a software and by the time it lands, officials can access that data and run checks to assess the travel history of the passengers.
“If any passenger’s name is found suspicious, it will be verified with other airlines to check if he has booked a flight to another city and traced. The role of gangs in these rackets cannot be ruled out,” an official said. They said that despite all these measures there is a huge influx of gold from abroad and the precious metal is often brought in with the help of some airport staff.
- Stuffed into the rectum
- In special pockets stitched into undergarments
- Stuffed into undergarments
- Concealed in power banks
- Concealed in cigarette packets
- Concealed as foils in between the layers of a corrugated box
- Wrapped under the feet
- Concealed inside socks
- Stuffed into shoe cushions
- Converted into rods and fixed to a luggage trolley
- Concealed in gas regulators in the form of buttons
- Concealed in electric iron boxes
- Concealed in thermos flask
Recent seizures in city
April 3:Gold buttons concealed in Gas regulator
March 7: Gold concealed in thermos flask
Jan 31 : Two passengers who wrapped 1.109kg gold bars under the feet and concealed with the socks arrested
Jan. 20: Rs13.64 lakh worth Gold seized from one person arrived from Muscat, he concealed the gold as foils in between the layers of a corrugated box
Jan. 16: One persons held with 1.19 kg gold bars concealed in rectum
Jan. 1: Three held for smuggling 1.2 kg gold