The north Indian coordinator and mind-boggling illegal gold business

Gold smuggling
Illustration: Manorama

Authorities have seized 1,434.16 kilograms of gold worth Rs 650.63 crore from passengers over the past two years. Smugglers, however, are not perturbed since it is just a small fraction of the contraband. In the third and concluding part of the Gold Heist series, a smuggler reveals that 50 to 70 kg of gold are being smuggled in through Kozhikode airport, 40 kg via Kochi, and 20 kg through Kannur daily.

Read Part 1 (Greed, revenge & blood: A peek into the world of gold smugglers) and Part 2 (A 'busting' bid that almost sparked gang war at Karipur airport) of the series here.

Is someone coordinating the gold smuggling activities in the Malabar region? Officials of the Customs (Preventive) Wing point at a north Indian man who frequently visits Kozhikode.

The man, a former official, was dismissed from service after his arrest on charges of aiding smugglers. He was jailed under the COFEPOSA (The Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities) Act.

His primary responsibility, reportedly, is to find officials willing to collude with the smugglers. In smuggling parlance, arranging officials to back smuggling is called "setting."

The man had established sound contacts with smugglers when in service. It has been alleged that he used to recommend novel ways to smuggle in gold. Officials have learnt that he has contacts with smugglers outside the State, including those operating via the Mumbai airport.

Disappearing gold

The "setting" often leaves senior officials baffled. Sample this: Authorities seized 600 grams of gold from a passenger at the Kozhikode International Airport in November 2021. But no case was registered.

The Customs Preventive Headquarters Unit, which got wind of the incident, launched a probe, and examined CCTV footage. It was revealed that electronic goods, in which the gold was hidden, have been seized. But the gold is missing.

The investigation also found that the seized goods were not kept in the strong room as mandated, but at other places. Additionally, the officials concerned gave contradictory statements.

Three officials were suspended from service after it was found that they returned the gold they had seized to smugglers. The gang which brought in the gold was not identified, but it was found that it was not the first incident. Earlier, officials took the seized 600 grams of gold outside the airport, and safely handed it over to smugglers.

The Customs Preventive Headquarters Unit is now probing a similar case.

Karipur International Airport
The Karipur International Airport

Dress Rehearsal

Recently, smugglers have been hiding gold capsules in their person. Gold in powder form is available in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Smugglers mix the gold powder in chemicals, and pack the gold in capsule form in rubber sheaths. They are then hidden in the carriers' private parts.

Smugglers make elaborate arrangements to ensure that the gold reaches the destination without being caught. They seek the services of experts to convert the gold powder into capsules, before carrying out a series of security checks.

The checks involve subjecting the carrier or baggage to x-ray tests and door scans. All security scans that one has to undergo at the airport are done in hotel rooms. Some even take the baggage to hospitals for x-ray tests.

The carrier will not be aware of the quantity of gold he is carrying. After hiding the gold, the carrier will be dropped off at the airport. The gold hidden in private parts will go undetected through the doorframe metal detector at the airport.

Customs officials said gold is hidden scientifically in electric and electronic goods. Smugglers used to fill the batteries of electronic goods with gold powder, and reconnect them to avoid suspicion.

Smugglers went a step ahead after the customs started weighing suspicious electronic goods like emergency lamps and switched them on to check if they work properly. They inserted the original batteries in gold-filled cells and gave proper connections so that the gadgets would work. Some "unnecessary" parts were dropped to adjust the weight.

The gangs in Kerala smuggle in gold through airports outside the State and even via Nepal. An official said the possibility of smuggling in gold through sea could not be ruled out. He pointed out several instances of boats smuggling gold to Chennai from Sri Lanka.

Customs officials are also aware that gangs smuggle out drugs and currencies to foreign countries, especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

100 kg of gold a day

The quantity of gold that is smuggled into Kerala via various airports daily is mind boggling. A member of a Kozhikode-based gang shed some light into the enormity of the well-organised illegal act in a WhatsApp call.

Malabar-based gangs smuggle in 50 to 70 kg gold through the Kozhikode airport, 40 kilograms via Kochi, and 20 kg through Kannur daily. The gold is brought hidden in person, in baggage or in collusion with officials.

"Busting" gangs are active in Kannur. Malabar gangs seldom smuggle in gold via the Trivandrum International Airport, since trustworthy carriers are in short supply in Thiruvananthapuram. Additionally, vehicles and people from the Malabar region could be easily identified in the capital.

Easy money is the motive behind the activity. Smugglers are not concerned over the customs occasionally seizing gold since at least five carriers come out of the airport undetected in a day.

Currency notes are also smuggled. The proceeds from the sale of smuggled gold in Kerala is converted to foreign currencies, and clandestinely taken to and sold in the illegal markets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for double the profit.

The gold hunt

Various agencies, Customs (Preventive) Commissionarate (CPC), Customs Commissionerate (CC), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Kerala Police seized 1,434.16 kg gold worth Rs 650.63 gold smuggled in through the four airports in Kerala during the past two years. Their breakup is as follows:


The Customs (Preventive) Commissionarate busted 75 cases in April 2022 alone, and seized 59.54 kg  gold valued at Rs 29.23 crore. As many as 34 people were arrested.

The Customs Commissionerate seized 16 kg of gold worth Rs 8.24 crore. The Malappuram police seized 20 kg gold worth Rs 10.29 crore in 27 smuggling cases between January and May 15, 2022. The police also arrested 27 carriers and 36 receivers besides confiscating 23 vehicles.The air customs wing at Kannur, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram airports comes under the  Customs (Preventive) CommissionerateAir customs wing at Cochin Airport, and the Cochin port customs wing are under the Kochi Customs Commissionerate.

NK Jaisal, Abdul Salam
NK Jaisal, Abdul Salam


Police and customs are searching for Abdul Salaam and N K Jaysal in connection with the seizure of 2.33 kg gold from a carrier, Mohammad Shafeeq, a resident of Moorkkanad. The gold was seized at the Kozhikode airport on June 21, 2021.  

Investigators have found that the gold was smuggled in for Salaam and Jaysal. The customs has issued a search warrant against the duo.

The smuggling incident became news after over 100 men in 60 reached the airport after Shafeeq double-crossed two gangs, and a road chase that followed, ended in the deaths of five people in an accident.

N V Unnikrishnan, a goldsmith based at Kottukkara in Kondotty recalls the authorities seizing gold from a passenger who arrived at the Kozhikode airport in the inaugural international flight. Photo: Manorama

Inaugural flight, first incident

N V Unnikrishnan, a goldsmith based at Kottukkara in Kondotty recalls the authorities seizing gold from a passenger who arrived at the Kozhikode airport in the inaugural international flight.

Unnikrishnan is a customs and DRI-recognized assessor of gold, and is also involved in smelting and separating gold that has been treated with chemicals, a ploy the smugglers employ to hoodwink authorities. He has his workshop in Kondotty town.

The man, who certifies seized gold after assessing its weight and purity, is often a prosecution witness in smuggling cases.

"I don't remember the quantity of gold that was seized," he said while recalling the first incident. "But I remember it was caught from the inaugural flight, and I had certified its weight," he added.

On the methods smugglers have been adopting to bring in gold, Unnikrishnan said the capsule form was introduced merely four-five years ago.

"Earlier, gold was brought hidden in other goods. Gold mixed with other elements could be smelted and completely separated within an hour. I don't know what chemical is used, but burns completely while smelting. I have even received dummies (without gold). Normally, each capsule contains 90 to 92 per cent gold," he added.


The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.