KOCHI: With the airports reopening to receive flights from Covid-hit countries, the Customs Department has upped its vigil to bust gold smuggling rackets, which have reared their ugly head once again in the state. This time, however, smugglers are hiring unemployed people in Gulf countries who are desperate to return home due to Covid-19. In the last 48 hours alone, six cases were registered by the Customs Preventive Commissionerate in Kerala.
“On Sunday, we detected three cases on a single flight from a Gulf country and another on a different flight, both of which landed at Kozhikode airport. Smuggling activities were also detected at Kannur airport. Nine cases of smuggling have been registered in the past one week, in which 5 kg of gold was seized detected. This is a clear indication that smuggling is back,” said Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar. Illegal transportation of gold had declined in the past three months, owing to the global outbreak of the pandemic. Customs preventive formations have been brought back to action at airports.
However, frisking and other surveillance activities are being held keeping Covid protocol in mind. “Our teams at various units have enhanced intelligence-gathering activities. Smugglers are probably sending gold in smaller quantities to guage enforcement measures initiated by the Customs at airports,” he said.
Earlier, carriers usually travelled from Kerala to Gulf countries returned with the gold after a brief stay in those countries. However, since only special flights are operational now, smuggling kingpins are targeting people who might have lost their job due to Covid-19 to operate as carriers. “Most of the carriers we arrested in recent days were people who had lost their job. The smugglers pay for their air tickets and promise remuneration. Some fall into the trap easily,” a Customs official said.
Couriers and postal routes
The Customs is also monitoring parcels sent through couriers. “Using parcels to smuggle drugs and narcotics substances is another modus operandi of smugglers. There have been several such instances reported in other states. We have enhanced scanning in our state to prevent smuggling of drugs via parcels,” Sumit Kumar said.