Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Customs officials seized 30 gold bars weighing three kilograms from a passenger of Malaysian Airlines flight at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital early Sunday.
The officials detained the passenger, Saiham, after MS-196 carrying him landed the airport from Malaysia around 11:45am, a senior custom intelligence official confirmed.
While searching, the customs officials found the gold bars worth around BDT 1 3.5 million from inside his shoe around 12:10am, the official added.
He also said Saiham, hailed from Munshiganj, were handed over to police later.
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.
Seizure of smuggled gold jumped by 21 times in 2013 compared to that of the previous year of 2012, according to customs intelligence sources.
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.
From April to December 2013, the customs intelligence seized some 520 kilogram (kg) gold against 25 kg in the corresponding period of 2012.
All of the smuggled gold has been seized from Dhaka and Chittagong airports, a senior customs official said.
He said India is the second largest consumer of world gold market after China.
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.
BBN/SSR/AD-09Mar14-8:35 pm (BST)