Yes, it is as true as shocking that in the last one year, as per the World Gold Council estimates, 175 tonnes of gold (which is worth around US$7bn) was brought illegally into the territory of India.
If figures are to be believed then starting from 2012, India has seen a huge spurt in gold smuggling. Comparing only the seizures made in country's top two airports – Mumbai and Delhi – the figures are alarming.
In Mumbai, in the financial year 2012-13, 64 Kgs of gold was seized on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport which rose to around 345 Kgs in 2013-14 and further spiked alarmingly to 943 Kgs in 2014-15.
To mention of Indira Gandhi International Airport of Delhi, custom officials got hold of around 575 Kgs of gold in last one year - the figure which was 378 Kgs in 2013-14 and an insignificant 6 Kgs in 2012-13.
As per an Indian Express report, gold amounting to a value of around US$150mn was seized in just first ten months of 2014-15. The striking figures draw attention towards two big questions – Why suddenly a spurt in gold smuggling and is it going unnoticed?
Industry experts say that the spurt in gold smuggling attribute to the rise in it's duty two years ago when the government increased it from four percent to a record 10 percent.
Additionally, RBI's 80:20 import-export norm was in force till November last year.
Ketan Shroff, spokesperson, India Bullion and Jewellery Association told that under this scheme, importers were allowed to import gold only if 20% of the lot was exported.
This coupled with high consumption in the country and fall in rupee encouraged smuggling to a large extent. Though several requests to lower the import duty on gold have been raised in front of the government, yet nothing has changed so far.
Another factor which encouraged smuggling in India is the slow prosecution. Typically, it takes almost a year's time of legal process if a gold smuggler is arrested. That too can increase if the accused moves to court against the adjudication order of the Customs. At times, they even get immediate bail if the seizure turns out to be of less than Rs 1 crore value (about 3.85 Kg).
Vipul Shah, chairman of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said the industry has been “constantly urging the government to lower the import duty on gold”. The government should bring down the import duty and probably look at other ways of curtailing imports,” said Shah.