Gold smuggling attempts at Indian airports are nothing new, but some schemes can be more ingenious than others. Such was the case at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, where officials unraveled a plot involving gold bars craftily hidden in a pasta-making machine.
The Intriguing Passenger
IndiGo Flight 6E1486, which operates daily between Dubai International Airport and Bengaluru, typically lands early in the morning around 03:30. On October 14th, Bengaluru Airport authorities flagged a 41-year-old male passenger from Kerala, who seemed a bit on edge after disembarking.
Further investigation revealed he had a travel history involving the Middle East. But that wasn’t what led to his arrest; it was what customs officials discovered in his luggage.
The Golden Catch
During routine checks, Bengaluru’s Air Intelligence Unit took note of a seemingly innocuous pasta-making machine among the man’s possessions. Upon scanning the device, it became apparent that it had been tampered with.
A closer look revealed that the cylindrical parts meant for churning out pasta dough were substituted with gold rods. The confiscated rods weighed in at 598 grams, with a market value of approximately ₹3.5 million ($42,000).
The Web of Smuggling
Subsequent investigations divulged that the gold bars were planted into the machine by specialists in the Gulf, confirming their involvement in a broader international gold smuggling network.
A Widespread Issue
While smuggling gold through Indian airports isn’t a rarity, authorities have ramped up their vigilance. In the current fiscal year alone, nearly $900,000 worth of gold has been seized. Flights originating from certain regions, notably the Middle East, receive special scrutiny.
Other regions, including Thailand and Malaysia, are also being closely watched. Although the Bengaluru incident was unique in the smuggling technique employed, it pales in comparison to larger hauls, such as a $4 million seizure at Mumbai Airport last year, where 60 kg of gold was recovered in just one day.
In a similarly inventive case, Mumbai customs reported finding gold dust ingeniously concealed in the waistline of a passenger’s jeans.
The recent Bengaluru incident serves as another testament to the unyielding efforts by Indian authorities to clamp down on the lucrative yet illegal gold smuggling trade, as smugglers continue to cook up ever more creative tactics.
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