Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Customs officials in separate incidents arrested two persons along with 84 gold bars, weighing 9.079 kg, at Shah Amanat International Airport in the port city Chittagong on Wednesday.
The arrested were identified as Mohammad Ismail and Mohammad Sohel, both residents of Rauzan upazila in the district, the customs officials confirmed.
Sudden surge in gold smuggling in Bangladesh has raised strong suspicion that the precious metal is distained for the neighbouring Indian market, customs officials and insiders said.
Indian government raised import duties thrice in 2013 to 10 per cent on gold bullion – up from 2 per cent in January.
Experts and law enforcers suspect a section of smugglers are using Bangladesh as transit to send smuggled gold into the neighbouring country taking advantage of the farmer's geographical location.
It has been found that the trend of gold smuggling increased alarmingly from April last year, just one month after the first hike in import duty on gold in India.
After duty hike, gold import through legal channels in India dropped to 32 per cent in the July-September quarter, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).
Usually, demand for gold increases significantly in India during the wedding season, November to January period.
The WGC has noted a 125 per cent rise in third-quarter gold sales in Thailand over the same period the previous year, to more than 35 tonnes. That suggests Indian smugglers may be buying much of their gold there.
In Bangladesh, demand for the precious metal is remarkably low compared to that of India.
Local jewellers said there is no formal import of gold in Bangladesh.
Under the existing baggage rules, air passengers are allowed to bring 200 grams of gold. In the existing customs rules, importers have to pay BDT 150 as duty on per tola of gold.
In the absence of an appropriate gold policy, a significant quantity of the much-sought-after metal enters the country every year informally, depriving the government of a handsome amount of revenue, officials and people familiar with business in the precious metal said.
According to them, despite frequent appeals from the local jewellers, the government has, until now, failed to formulate any gold policy.
In the last three months of the current calendar year 2014 (January-March), a record 225 kilogrammes (kg) of gold bars were seized at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka, Shah Amanat International Airport (SAIA) in Chittagong and Osmani International Airport in Sylhet, according to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Director.
In 2013, the customs intelligence personnel seized some 520 kg of gold as against 25 kg in 2012.
Anwar Hossain, president of Bangladesh Jewellery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BJMEA), said ten years ago the gold manufacturers had placed a demand to the commerce ministry for framing a gold policy and keeping the market stable by releasing pure gold from Bangladesh Bank.
He said, "Bangladesh government could not formulate a national gold policy in forty-two years. Political interference in favour of the smugglers and bureaucratic knots are two major causes behind the failure."
BBN/SSR/AD-16Apr14-11:49 pm (BST)