Sri Lanka seems to have become a transit point for smugglers bringing gold to Chennai from places like Dubai and Singapore. In the past month, bureau of immigration officials at Chennai airport arrested 13 people, including several Sri Lankan Tamils, and seized 3.5kg of gold. At least 30kg of gold has been recovered at Chennai airport from smugglers so far this year, sources said.
A senior immigration officer confirmed the new route. “As officials double-check baggage of air passengers from Dubai and Singapore, smugglers are taking a lengthy route via Sri Lanka to avoid being scanned with extra care,” a police officer said.
Inquiries with the carriers caught so far have revealed that they get a mere 5,000-10,000 for a trip to India. “Of the 13 arrested in the past one month, at least 10 are Sri Lankan Tamils,” an official said.
“We believe the smugglers are also using a few other lesser known routes to bring in gold illegally into our country. We have stepped up security arrangements at Trichy, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore airports apart from Chennai airport. A special circular has been sent to staff at these airports to check carefully the baggage of passengers arriving from Sri Lanka,” an immigration officer said.
The increase in the gold prices in India has led to smugglers trying to bring in gold from abroad, officials said. Several attempts to smuggle in the yellow metal had been successful, but a number of attempts had been thwarted with the help of informers, they added. “We are getting information about smuggling of valuables from abroad through sources. Though most of the carriers arrested don’t know much about the bigger network, special teams are on the trail of the big fish,” the immigration officer said. (TOI)