India is suffering a renewed spate of gold smuggling at the start of the annual festive period, which traditionally prompts a spike in demand, as import restrictions continue to throttle official inflows of the yellow metal.
Customs officials say seizures have jumped in recent weeks in advance of the festival season, which will reach its peak around Diwali in late October, while smugglers find ever more imaginative means of hiding undeclared gold.
The World Gold Council, a trade body, estimates that some 200 tons of gold will be smuggled into India during this calendar year.
“If you compare it [smuggling] with last month, it has gone up,” said Arvind Singh, who works in customs at Mumbai’s international airport. “They might have changed their mode of smuggling because customs people are screening 100 per cent of bags on sensitive flights.”
India introduced tough duties and quantitative restrictions on gold imports last year as part of a plan to reduce the country’s current account deficit following a currency crisis that saw a sharp drop in the value of the rupee.
Many analysts expected these restrictions to be gradually removed as India’s current account deficit fell sharply over the course of this year.
The government of recently elected prime minister Narendra Modi surprised the industry, however, by keeping policies unchanged inits maiden budget in July.
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