New Delhi: The international airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kozhikode and Kochi saw the maximum amount of seizure of smuggled gold in the last three fiscals even as gold smuggling fell marginally in 2019-20 compared to the previous year, the finance ministry informed the Rajya Sabha Tuesday.
Gold smuggling has been on the rise over the last few years after the government imposed customs duty on gold imports.
Import duty on gold was negligible before the government started increasing customs duty on gold imports in 2012 as India looked to curb gold imports. It was increased from 2 per cent to 10 per cent over the next few years. Last year, the government further raised the import duty to 12.5 per cent from 10 per cent. In addition, GST is also levied on gold at the rate of 3 per cent.
The government gave the information in response to a query raised by CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem. It said no gold smuggling case in the last three years is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) along with the Customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
The CPI(M)-ruled Kerala government is in the midst of a controversy over a gold smuggling case after one of the accused in the case, Swapna Suresh, was alleged to have close links with M. Sivasankar, the principal secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Sivasankar has since been removed from the case.
Central agencies like the NIA and the Enforcement Directorate are investigating the case that first came to light on 5 July this year after the customs department seized 30 kg of gold worth Rs 15 crore from a diplomatic cargo.
3 of 4 international airports in Kerala in top 10
Data shared by the finance ministry further shows that three of the four international airports in Kerala — Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram — were in the list of top 10 airports where the maximum quantity of smuggled gold was seized. The international airport in Kannur that began operations in December 2018 was the only exception.
The other airports in the top 10 include international airports in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Tiruchirappalli and Hyderabad.
Among the seaports, the Chennai seaport in Tamil Nadu and the Hazira and Mundra seaports in Gujarat saw the maximum amount of gold seizures.
Airports, however, seem to be the preferred mode of gold smuggling with only a fraction of the smuggling being detected at seaports.
According to government data, the total quantity of gold seized in 2019-20 was 2,668 kg, 9 per cent lower than the 2,946 kg of smuggled gold detected in 2018-19.
In 2017-18, 2,236 kg of smuggled gold was detected by the authorities.
However, the detected amount of gold might actually be a small fraction of the total gold smuggling trade with smugglers constantly coming up with innovative ways to evade taxes.
Over the last few years, smugglers have tried to smuggle in the precious yellow metal by concealing it in body parts and other daily use items like soaps and baby foods.