Customs Seeking Cancellation of Passports of Alleged Gold Smugglers
The names of offenders will be referred to the regional passport officer for passport cancellation, according to officials.
The Customs department will come down heavily on those accused in gold smuggling, recommending that their passports are cancelled, Sumit Kumar, the Commissioner of Customs, Cochin, said in Thiruvananthapuram.
“We have decided to act tough on the offenders by referring their names to the regional passport officer for passport cancellation. This is in addition to usual charges under the Customs Act and Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA). Several names have been referred so far,” Kumar said on March 10, the New Indian Express reported.
Along with seeking cancellation of the passports of the offenders, the department will also ask the ministry of external affairs to issue show-cause notices to smuggling accused, Kumar added, the Times of India reported. “The government has so far been lenient as it doesn’t want one-time offenders to feel the full weight of the law. That won’t be the case anymore,” Kumar was quoted as saying.
Sometimes, innocent passengers land in trouble as they lack awareness about transportation of gold, Kumar said, pointing out that passengers can bring the gold that they had taken out of the country legally if they had made the required declaration during the time of their departure.
The Customs department also wants the public to come forward and inform them about cases of smuggling, which will also bring them suitable rewards. The identity of the informants will not be revealed, since no database is maintained regarding informers. “Our informers can be rewarded up to 30 percent of the market value of the seized products. They needn’t come to court or take part in legal procedures. We will not contact them again,” Kumar added.
Professional smugglers don’t care about fines or even preventive detention under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA). “They come out and go back to business. That is why we have decided to start from Kerala the initiative to write to MEA to suspend the passports of offenders,” Kumar added.
A total of 13.568 kg of gold, valued at Rs 444,855,19, was seized by Air Customs, Trivandrum Airport, during 2017-2018 (until February), according to the report. Earlier this month, Customs authorities at the Cochin International Airport seized 3.225 kg gold worth Rs 1 crore over one week, the Hindu reported. The smugglers used various methods to transport the item, such as hiding it in the rectum, shoes, inner wear, etc., as well as carrying it in semi-solid paste form to smuggle the contraband.