Hyderabad: Gold smugglers are adopting different ways to bring the precious metal into the country, even with the Customs officials trying to stay ahead of them. In the latest move, the smugglers are now hiring locals from the city to carry the gold through international connecting flights. The locals board international flights bound for Hyderabad from Delhi, Mumbai or any other Indian city. Once they have boarded, they take over the gold consignment from a person who had boarded from the international starting point.
“Generally, the customs officials focus more on passengers coming through foreign destinations and check their baggage. So the carriers who bring in the gold from Dubai are now handing it over in the flight itself to domestic travellers, as the latter are less suspected of smuggling,” informed a gold trader, on condition of anonymity.
After deboarding at Hyderabad, the domestic traveller exits the airport and hands over the gold consignment to the local smugglers or their associates. On Wednesday night, officials discovered this new modus operandi. A passenger was caught with 1.243 grams of gold at the airport. The passenger, whose name was withheld, had boarded an Air India international flight connecting Jeddah to Hyderabad via Mumbai.
“During the search of his baggage, foreign-origin gold weighing 1.243 grams was found. He told us that a person in Hyderabad had offered him an incentive to carry the gold. The gold was kept in a washroom of the flight and he had taken it,” customs officials said.
The officials found that the man had left for Mumbai from the city early in the morning and had booked the return ticket in the Air India connecting flight which arrived in the evening.
“The smugglers are now shifting from the traditional modus operandi of smuggling in the gold through one passenger. A chain system seems to be in place now. We suspect either some passenger is handing over the gold mid-air to the domestic traveller, or airlines staff is concealing the gold in the washroom or some other place in the aircraft,” said the official.
A few days ago, the customs officials caught a person from Uttar Pradesh who had left behind about a kilogram of gold in the flight in the Air India aircraft. The man had arrived through a international connecting flight between Dubai and Hyderabad, which was again to leave for Vizianagaram and later Delhi. The man had concealed the gold under a seat in the flight and had left the aircraft.
“On suspicion we had caught him and he took us to the aircraft and showed the seat under which the gold was hidden. We suspect that some other person might have been assigned the task of taking the gold from the flight and handing over to the local person in Visakhapatnam or Delhi,” the customs official said.