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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Hijab clad gold smugglers slipping through Customs in Kerala?

Early Monday morning, police arrested Keralite woman Mariam Shahla, who came from Dubai and tried to smuggle gold worth one crore rupees. Shahla, a native of Kasaragod, was caught on her arrival from Dubai on an Air India Express flight. The lady gold smuggler landed at the Kozhikode International Airport at Karipur in the Malappuram district. She arrived at Karipur around 10:30 on Sunday night, hiding the gold in her underwear. 

Shahla told her parents and neighbors that she had to attend a ‘six-day interview’ in Dubai and left Kerala. The gold smuggling mafia offered the lady one lakh rupees if successful and paid for the carrier’s flight tickets. 

Malappuram SP S Sujith received a tip-off about this smuggling mafia involving Shahla. Police officers waited for the lady smuggler outside the Karipur airport. Officers detained and interrogated Shahla, who came outside the airport after a routine examination by customs inspection. 

Shahla tried to smuggle 1886 grams of gold in a paste form stitched inside her underwear in three packets. The contraband was 24-carat gold worth around one crore rupees and was semi-liquid. Police said the undergarment was designed by the gold smuggling mafia and given to the young lady. They handed over Shahla to the Customs Department for further investigation.

Suspiciously, she was cleared by Customs officials but got caught only because Kerala police had prior information about her smuggling. The modus operandi is that mafia members wait outside the airport, and the gold will change hands once the carriers arrive. Legal teams arrive and bail out the accused if the carriers get caught. The actual kingpin who arranges the funds never gets caught.   

Gold smugglers convinced Shahla not to be afraid since Customs rarely frisk women clad in hijab. They were right. Shahla says her husband also forced her to join the gold smuggling mafia. 

Shahla confused the Customs officials as she was specially instructed not to seem nervous no matter how hard officers questioned her. The authorities were also baffled as Shahla refused to admit the crime. They said that the lady never changed the expression on her face despite being interrogated. 

Shahla’s luggage was searched, but nothing was found. But since they had secret information, the customs officials finally dared to search her body. It was then that three packets were found hidden expertly sewn into her underwear.

As per Customs sources at the airport, searching every passenger to see if they are carrying gold in their private areas is impossible. That is a lame excuse since multiple Customs officers have been arrested from the Karipur airport for aiding and abetting gold smugglers. 

Gold smuggling in a paste form hidden in the rectum has become commonplace. Some smugglers then fall prey to robbers who snatch gold from such carriers. Karipur Customs claimed that if the gold is hidden in the private parts of the carriers, X-ray machines won’t be able to find it. Such statements are hard to believe. Only when there is specific information do Customs officers frisk travelers. 

It is believed that for every kilo caught, ten kilos slip through. Experts believe that smugglers themselves betray new carriers to puzzle authorities. When they are busy searching and inspecting a carrier bringing small quantities, bigger consignments reach the illegal gold market. 

Shahla was later released on bail. The gold will be submitted to the Customs Court. The ease with which the whole episode was conducted has raised suspicions. Interestingly, gold smuggling is operated mostly by members of a particular community.

In June, Mangaluru customs officials arrested two persons for smuggling gold from Dubai in two separate incidents. The accused were arrested at Mangaluru International Airport and identified as Zeenath Banu (45) and Muhammad Iqbal (47). Both are Kasargod residents and arrived on an Air India Express flight from Dubai smuggling gold weighing around 2.648 kgs. Banu carried the smuggled gold in her sanitary pads, while Iqbal concealed the gold inside his rectum as four balls wrapped in tape and a condom. Back then, the contraband was worth around Rs 1.40 crore.

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  1. Why the Customs & Police are afraid of Muslim smugglers who use their women to smuggle gold? But this does not happen in United States, Australia and Europe.
    If they are cowradice enough to nab these criminal gangs gold smuggling can never be abetted.


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