An alert has been sounded by a financial intelligence agency to all international airports and other transit points within the country to check smuggling of gold.
Citing recent structural changes in import duty of gold by the finance ministry, the directorate general of revenue intelligence (DGRI), which analyzes and disseminates intelligence related to smuggling and customs duty evasion, has sent an alert to all international airports and customs check points to remain vigilant, official sources said.
They have been asked to intensify measures, including minutely scanning suspect passengers and commercial consignments to check smuggling of gold, the sources said.
The officials fear that the upcoming festive season, including Diwali and marriages solemnised between November and February, will push the demand for gold in the country, giving rise to its smuggling.
There are 19 international airports in the country -- Srinagar, Amritsar, Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Nagpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Goa, Bengaluru, Chennai, Calicut, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Port Blair.
Officials have been asked to be alert at international transit land routes, including Attari-Wagah border (Punjab) and Munabao Railway Station under Jodhpur (Rajasthan), among others, the sources said.
However, after noticing fall in prices of gold globally, the finance ministry had on September 2 reduced the import tariff value of the yellow metal to $458 per 10 grammes. Earlier on August 30, the tariff value -- base price on which the customs duty is determined to prevent under-invoicing -- of gold was increased to $461 from $432 per 10 grammes.
The prices of yellow metal had touched an all-time high of Rs 34,500 per 10 grams in last week of August in the national capital. At present, 10 grams of gold cost about Rs 31,000 in Delhi's bullion market.
India, the largest gold consumer in the world, imported 860 tonnes of gold in 2012. In the first four months of the current fiscal, the import rose by 87 per cent to 383 tonnes.
On August 13, the government had raised import duty on gold to 10 per cent from 8 per cent.
Sources said the customs department is also scanning credentials of suspect cargo coming from Gulf countries and other nations like Malaysia to foil any bid to smuggle the precious metal inside the country.
Of late, a number of passengers have been arrested from Delhi's international airport for allegedly trying to smuggle gold into the country.
On August 31, a woman was held for allegedly trying to smuggle a gold bar worth Rs 45 lakh. A man was arrested on August 24 for allegedly trying to illegally bring in gold bars worth over Rs one crore from the airport.
On August 17, two passengers were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle in gold worth about Rs 55 lakh at the international airport.