Jeddah: Hassle-free travel to Gulf, including pilgrimage to Makkah, Madinah, and cheaper gold there whether in the form of bar or jewellery are the prime reasons for the yellow metal being smuggled out from Gulf countries to Hyderabad.
Indians whether NRIs or those visiting prefer to purchase gold ornaments here as gold shops assure them purity, besides quality workmanship and a variety of design as compared back home. The gold souk here is mostly frequented by visiting Indians rather than local NRIs.
Incidents of gold smuggling from the Gulf to Hyderabad have been rising as India continues to enforce around 10 per cent import duty on gold to bring down its current account deficit.
This fascination of Indians for gold is making it easy for smugglers. Tight vigil and frequent seizures of gold at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, do not seem to be deterring some people travelling from Gulf.
The latest seizure of 6.46 kg gold worth of approximately around Rs 2.17 crore from returning Umrah pilgrims from Saudi Arabia at the RGIA has raised many eyebrows.
Hyderabad is one of the prime embarkation airports for Umrah pilgrims as a significant number of pilgrims travel on a daily basis to Saudi Arabia. Also, competition among tour operators gives a price edge to pilgrims with tour operators offering attractive prices.
The modus operandi of using innocent Umrah pilgrims, especially elderly women from Hyderabad, as couriers by smugglers is operational for some years now, according to records.
In the past also, similar cases were reported, including the arrest of two city-based women aged between 60 years and 80 years for carrying 5.3 kg gold, who later told how tour guides cheated them by asking them to wear gold bangles meant for their sister’s marriage.