Gold smugglers lure expats with free flight tickets; customs dept warns returning passengers

By M. K. Rajasekharan

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The smugglers are targeting expats, struggling after having lost their jobs, and are offering them a return ticket and attractive payment.

Kochi: Customs department has learned that smugglers are trying to take advantage of the desperate situation of expats struggling due lockdown, to bring gold to Kerala. Officials have warned that stringent checking and examinations await those falling for such traps.

Many Keralites in gulf countries, struggling after having lost their jobs in the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak, are trying to return home.

The smugglers are targeting such expats and are offering them a return ticket and attractive payment. The smugglers also convince the expats that there are no intense customs checking at airports in Kerala. It’s easy for the expats, struggling to buy tickets to return home, to fall into such traps.

Customs officials clarified that expats returning in evacuation flights will have to undergo more security and health checks than usual. On an average, the Karipur International Airport receives around 5000 passengers. They will be inspected by a team of 12 customs officials.

On Friday, only 170 passengers landed at the airport and the same number of customs officials checked them.

Two officers, wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, have been deployed for physical checking of passengers.

Earlier, as many passengers used to come through at a time, physical checking was not always possible. But now, there is a gap between passengers arriving and it helps customs officials check each and every passenger.

On Friday, customs officials had seized 184 grams of gold worth Rs 7.56 lakh from a woman who landed at Karipur from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. She had hidden the gold, shaped like a bangle, on her arm.

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