Falling gold prices globally have not deterred smugglers from clandestinely bringing in the yellow metal into India as is evident from the latest seizure at Mumbai airport on 26 December, when Mumbai Customs recovered 3 kg gold valued at about Rs 69 lakh.
The Air Intelligence Unit of Mumbai Customs recovered 1.09 kg gold from passenger Priyank Morakhiya who had landed from Hong Kong and other goods worth Rs 87 lakh, while the other passenger, Surur Basha, was found carrying 2 kg gold valued at Rs 46.63 lakh, reported PTI.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said gold smuggling was on the rise in India. "There has been an increase in gold smuggling through airports in the period 2012-13 to 2014-15," he informed Lok Sabha in a written reply on 4 December.
Smuggled gold seized at airports in India went up from Rs 557.83 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 832.08 crore in 2014-15. In the current fiscal till mid-November, the government has seized gold valued at Rs 429.84 crore, he said.
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, France, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UAE and the UK are the countries from where passengers smuggle gold into India, Jaitley added.
A combination of factors makes gold smuggling into India lucrative.
"Besides, increase in custom duty rates, factors like fluctuation in international price of gold and other restrictions on import of gold also contribute to the increase in incidences of gold smuggling," said Jaitley.
India's gold imports have come down consistently over the years, from $ 56.5 billion in 2011-12, to $53.8 billion in 2012-13, to $27.70 billion. It was $24.49 billion last year and in this fiscal, the country imported gold worth $ 22.73 billion in the first eight months (April to November).
Gold prices had touched an all-time high of Rs 33,790 on 28 August, 2013, the day when the Indian rupee touched its all-time low of 68.85 against the US dollar.
The import duty on gold is 10% since August 2013.