The Times of India reports that two middle-aged Sri Lankan men were apprehended in Chennai Airport for smuggling gold by hiding it under their tongue. Customs officials detained four men flying in from Columbo, and noticed something strange about two of the men.
“Following a tip, we were monitoring passengers walking out after clearing immigration procedure. We stopped four Sri Lankan nationals and two of them were finding it difficult to speak,” said an official. Shahul Hameed Mohamed Issadeen, 48, and Habeebu Mohammed Izadeen, 53, were found to have specially-formed gold bars under their tongue. The gold bars had been made to fit in the bottom of their mouth so that it could not be seen under their tongue.
The two gold bars totaled over 456 grams, with a value of 13.60 lakh (1.36 million rupees, or approximately $25,000.) The men had evaded security in Colombo, and had passed through the special gold detecting metal detectors at Chennai. If someone sets the detector off when walking through, agents use a hand-held wand to do a more thorough search, but (until now) have not passed it close to a person’s face. The smuggler’s used this fact to plan their scheme.
High import taxes on gold in India has led to an explosion of smuggling. Smugglers can make over $3500 per kilogram profit by buying gold in Sri Lanka, Dubai, or Thailand, and evading payment of the 6% import fees. This is triple the per capita income of $1,132 a year in India, which explains why so many people are willing to attempt to smuggle gold.
The $25,000 value of the gold seized is 22 times the per capita income in India. To put this in perspective, the per capita income in America $42,693. 22 times the U.S. per capita income would be $942,866. How nervous would you be, trying to smuggle something that expensive?