MANGALURU: Mangaluru International Airport has been recording a substantial rise in gold smuggling cases since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. An investigation by customs showed that people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and on visit visas to the Gulf, are becoming mules for gold smuggling syndicates.
A mule is paid anywhere between Rs 20,000 to 35,000 for the job, depending on the purity of the gold that they have to smuggle, along with a return ticket. A majority of them are first-time offenders, and went to the Gulf to do blue-collar jobs, and are ignorant about laws regarding smuggling.
A customs official said that the mules hired by gold smuggling syndicates are either illiterate or with less education, and that they are also first-time offenders. The racket that operates in the United Arab Emirates targets these vulnerable people, who also hail from specific places which are always under the watch of law enforcement agencies.
A mule is instructed as to where to drop the smuggled contraband, after he comes out of the airport. “The mule is totally unaware about the gold smuggling syndicate. The mule is also naïve about what are the legal consequences of international smuggling. This lands the mule in trouble, after being caught by the agencies,” the official explained.
Customs receive details of each arriving passenger, well in advance. Thorough homework is done, before a passenger lands at an airport. “A mule’s behaviour is different from a normal passenger. They are plagued by anxiety and there is a change in their body language. If the contraband is concealed inside the body, a person is constantly sweating, like if it is concealed inside the rectum,” he said, adding that the first time a mule blows the lid off the crime, is when officers start questioning him, and checking his luggage. “Not everyone is the same. There are also tough nuts who take a long time to give in.”
A majority of the smugglers are youngsters, or below 40. “However, recently a 47-year-old resident of Kasaragod was arrested for carrying gold, by concealing it in a sanitary napkin,” the officer added.
The modus operandi of concealment also changes from time to time. If we arrest those who conceal gold in their rectum, a few days later smugglers find new ways to smuggle gold, like by using trolleys, electrical equipment, cosmetics, wigs and through other means.