IGNORANT passengers from Bahrain are being used as carriers to smuggle gold into India, it has emerged.
According to reports in the Indian media, Customs officials foiled several smuggling attempts in the past few weeks and seized gold worth thousands of dinars from Bahrain travellers.
In May alone, 1.727kg of gold worth more than BD30,000 were seized from five international passengers flying into Bengaluru, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state.
Among the travellers was a passenger from Bahrain who had hidden gold pieces inside a Bluetooth speaker set, according to The Bangalore Mirror newspaper.
“Officials found two gold pieces weighing 233.28gm concealed inside two Bluetooth speakers in the baggage of Ibrahim Moozhikkal, who arrived from Bahrain on May 19,” it reported.
“When quizzed, he initially insisted that they were branded speakers and there was nothing inside but officials decided to break open the speakers and found the gold, which was valued at around Rs7.47 lakh (BD4,153).
The Customs unit at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport said majority of the gold seized last month were from passengers arriving either from Malaysia or Bahrain.
Returning Indian male passengers are allowed a duty-free allowance of 20gm of gold, subject to a maximum value of Rs50,000 (BD278).
The allowance for a female passenger is 40gm, subject to a maximum value of Rs100,000 (BD556).
However, the allowance is applicable only on gold jewellery, while any other form is subjected to Customs duty.
A passenger is allowed to carry up to 1kg of gold upon payment of Customs duty.
Gold smuggling from Gulf countries reportedly picked up after the Indian government raised import duty on the yellow metal in 2014.
Gold prices in Bahrain are lower compared to India, with 20gm bars currently costing BD331 in Manama and BD377 in India.
The GCC Gold, Pearls and Jewellery Association plans to hold an awareness campaign among traders in Bahrain to address the problem of gold smuggling into India involving Bahrain passengers.
“This is a serious issue that we as gold traders will certainly look into,” said association treasurer Mohammed Malim.
“However, it is not clear whether the passengers were flying from Bahrain or were in transit.”
It was also unclear whether the masterminds using passengers as carriers were operating from Bahrain or elsewhere.
“Gold smuggling from Bahrain is not very common.”
Mr Malim said the awareness campaign would also urge the Indian community not to fall prey to these rackets which can ruin their lives.
Meanwhile, Customs officers at Cochin International Airport, in Kerala, said since May 24 they had foiled eight smuggling attempts and seized 2.689kg of gold worth BD43,615.
This included 443.2gm of crude gold ornament from a woman who arrived from Bahrain.
At the same airport, in June, officials seized 350.4gm of gold valued at BD5,559 from a passenger from Bahrain.
The crude chains were found hidden in the socks he was wearing.
On May 26, the Times of India newspaper reported that two Indian men were arrested at Mumbai airport for allegedly trying to smuggle in gold bars.
One of them, identified as M Mohinuddin, arrived from Bahrain and was supposed to take a flight to Hyderabad.
Four gold bars, weighing a total of 435gm, were seized from him as he did not have documents to justify carrying the bars.
According to the latest data, India’s consumption of gold rose to 310 tonnes in the second quarter ended June – its highest in the last 10 years. However, the biggest seizure so far was in Bangladesh where Customs officials seized 58 gold bars weighing about 6,700gm from a passenger travelling on a Gulf Air from Bahrain to Dhaka.
The estimated market value of the haul from the construction worker in Bahrain was more than BD149,000. The gold bars were found wrapped in a blanket inside the passenger’s luggage.
The GDN reported in 2016 that members of a money laundering ring that used Bahrain as a transit point to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dinars in cash and large amounts of gold between Gulf states were arrested.
The three Indians, aged 34, 36 and 41, were allegedly part of an international racket that smuggled cash obtained from criminal activities and gold, hidden inside vehicles, from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain through King Fahad Causeway.
They then hid the items in different safe houses around the country before smuggling them into the UAE through Bahrain International Airport.