With the modus operandi for gold smuggling at the airport used in the 1970s and 80s being back in vogue, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the airport customs has begun approaching retired and experienced officials to train the present staff and help keep gold smuggling in check.
According to the data available with the AIU and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the apex smuggling detection agency, the smuggling of the yellow metal has increased tremendously over the past two years due to the increase in duties, which has made smuggling highly profitable for the syndicate.
“Since the modus operandi for smuggling has moved backed to the days of Haji Mastan, we are seeking the help of retired and other experienced hands to train our staff,” said APS Suri, commissioner of customs (airport).
Haji Mastan was a notorious and shrewd smuggler of gold, silver, and electronic goods in the 1970s and 1980s, who almost ruled the smuggling syndicate in Mumbai then. A few Bollywood films including Deewar and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai are said to have been inspired by him.
AIU officials reveal that some of the methods adopted by the carriers include carrying the gold in the rectum, covering the gold bars in a small cloth bag and hanging it from the airport trolley’s handle, moulding the bars into accessories like belts or bag handles and then painting them another colour, or carrying the metal by concealing it inside transistors and torches.
At least 15 people were held in December alone, and they all used such methods. On December 22 itself, the AIU apprehended a man with 21 gold bars worth over Rs62 lakh.
The man had concealed the bars inside an emergency light after removing the battery.
“These methods were in use till the early 1990s, but faded away after the opening up of the Indian economy and relaxation on the duties levied on gold,” added Suri.