Crafty mules stash gold in body cavities

Gold smugglers are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to get the metal past customs, Indian officials said, after nearly a dozen people were caught with bullion stashed in their rectums.

India is the world’s second-largest consumer of gold and smuggling has been increasing since duties were raised on the precious metal, an essential part of religious festivals and weddings.

Customs officials acting on a tip-off on Sunday detained a group of crafty gold mules as their plane from Sri Lanka touched down in the southern city of Madurai.

“Eleven passengers had concealed some 32 to 50 grams each in their rectums. Another 17 had hidden gold in their luggage,” a senior Directorate of Revenue Intelligence official said.

The value of the haul was more than 30-million rupees (R6.25-million), he said.

Demand for gold peaks in the final months of the year as the wedding season gets going and preparations are made for the major Hindu festivals of Diwali and Dussehra.

There has been a rise in smuggling since duties on gold were raised in 2013.

But secreting the valuable metal inside a body cavity had only caught on recently, officials said.

“It seems to be a new trend that has caught on in the last seven or eight months. Since the amounts of gold are not huge, it is easier for them to escape detection,” the customs official said.

The World Gold Council estimates smuggling networks imported up to 120 tons of gold into India last year.

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