At airports across India, customs officials finely comb through passengers going to or coming from Gulf nations. However, passengers coming in flights from European countries don't get as thorough search particularly for gold smuggling, officials said. This could be a reason why smugglers are increasingly trying to move the yellow metal from the Europe route.
"There are cases of gold smuggling involving passengers coming from European sector. It means that the smugglers are now opting for this route to bring gold. It is a new trend," said a senior customs officer who asked not to be named.
A senior citizen couple were arrested at Delhi airport by customs officials for allegedly trying to smuggle into the country 995 grams of gold valued at Rs 25.54 lakh on November 10. They flew in from Frankfurt.
In another case, man who came from London was arrested on November 2 for allegedly smuggling over 1 kilogram gold, 400 grams of which were concealed in his rectum. The gold valued at Rs 30 lakh was seized from him and he was arrested.
In October, another man who flew in from Paris was arrested for illegally carrying over 2 kg gold valued at Rs 66 lakh, and man who came from Italy was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle 1.5 kg of gold worth Rs 45.23 lakh.
Customs officials at other international airports across the country have also reported a similar trend as seen at Delhi airport, sources said. The demand for gold has been traditionally high in India as people prefer to invest in the yellow metal for better returns.
At least 110 kg gold, valued at Rs 37 crore, has been seized from smugglers at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi from January till October this year, according to customs officials.
In 2016, 110 cases were filed by Delhi airport customs officials and 188 kg gold, valued at Rs 48 crore, were seized, they said.