Despite high security at airports to deter gold smuggling, a passenger from the UAE tried to sneak in 40 grams of the yellow metal concealed behind the exhalation valve of a N-95 mask that he was wearing before Customs officials caught him at the Kozhikode international airport on Tuesday
“This is the first time we are coming across such a concealment tactic. It shows smugglers are out to exploit every situation whether it is pandemic or not. Usually we avoid masks and they were using this opportunity to smuggle,” said a senior Customs official.
He said the passenger Amar Mohammad, a native of Bhatkal in neighbouring Karnataka, who arrived by a Vande Bharat flight, had completed all checks and was about to exit the airport when an officer noticed that the mask he was wearing was sagging at one side and he was frequently adjusting it. When asked about it, he turned agitated and was in a hurry to slip out, the official said.
After checking his mask, officials found gold concealed inside it. The official said after the incident now passengers have been asked to deposit their mask also along with their wallet, belt and mobile phones for checking.
“The smuggled gold is worth Rs 2 lakh. We have detained him. It really shows the smugglers are making use of all opportunities,” said the official.
Though there is no normal flight these days, smugglers make use of ‘Vande Bharat’ and chartered flights to carry out their activities thinking frisking norms would be lax during the Covid-19 pandemic, said the official.
Smugglers have used date seeds, bra straps, belt buckles, shoes soles, sausages and gold paste to ring in the gold as its price soars in the country.
For Customs officials it is a high-stakes hide-and- seek game every day. Last year in Kerala 550 kg gold seized from four international airports.
Security at airports has been tightened after 30 kg of gold were seized from the Thiruvananthapuram international airport on July 5 from a consignment for the UAE consulate.
The seizure led to a probe by the NIA which is continuing.