A man travelling from the UAE was caught at Kozhikode international airport on Tuesday while trying to sneak in 40 grams of gold, hiding it behind the N-95 mask that he was wearing.
“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.
The passenger, identified as Amar Mohammad, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka, arrived by a Vande Bharat flight and went through all checks and was about to exit when a customs officer noticed that the mask he was wearing was sagging at one side and he was frequently adjusting it. He became furious when asked about it and tried to rush out.
The officials found gold concealed inside the mask. Customs officials will now ask passengers to deposit their mask 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.
Smugglers make use of ‘Vande Bharat’ flights to carry out their work thinking frisking norms would be lax during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the past, smugglers have resorted to use of date seeds, bra straps, belt buckles, shoes soles, sausages and gold paste to illegally get gold into the country. Last year, in Kerala 550 kg gold was seized from four international airports. Security has been upped at all airports after 30 kg gold was seized from the Thiruvananthapuram international airport on July 5. National Investigation Agency is looking into the matter.