Kasaragod man arrested for smuggling gold inside Nokia feature phones

Gold hidden in mobile phones, LED bulbs and wristwatches were seized at the Mangaluru International Airport. Photos: Special Arrangement/ Customs Department

Mangaluru: Nokia feature phones may never go out of fashion. But Customs officials at Mangaluru International Airport found that the dated phones could also be worth their weight in gold when a Kasaragod native landed from Dubai.

The passenger, identified as Ibrahim Masood (30) of Muttathody in Kasaragod, was arrested for trying to smuggle in gold worth Rs 11.78 lakh.

The 24carat gold was concealed in four Nokia feature phones, two wristwatches, and two LED bulbs, said Customs superintendent Manoj Kumar.

The gold was shaped like parts of phones, watches, and LED bulbs. "The gold was concealed in the form of two circular plates in the two watches, two cylindrical cases in the LED bulbs, and two chip-size rectangles and four T-shaped parts in the four features phones," he said.

The gold weighed 231g and was valued at Rs 11,78,100 lakh, he said.

Masood, who works in a mobile phone retail shop in Dubai, was returning home for a vacation after two years. He decided to work as a mule for the gold smuggling racket for a fee of Rs 20,000, said the Customs official. The gold package often changes multiple hands before it is handed over to the carrier in Dubai. So it is difficult to trace the origin and end-users of the gold.

Masood's was the 67th seizure of gold at Mangaluru International Airport this year. The number was similar in the first 46 weeks of last year, said the Customs superintendent.

According to a new circular from the Customs department, non-bailable arrests could be made only if the seizure was worth more than Rs 50 lakh.

Masood was given bail at the airport. On October 20, Mohammed Mubashir of Choori in Kasaragod was arrested with gold worth Rs 55 lakh. The court granted him bail after he gave a surety of property worth Rs 55 lakh.

Gold is smuggled in as paste or powder after mixing it with solid gum and concealed in the rectum, inside briefs and vests, or designed as motor coils or parts of gadgets, said the officer.

On October 6, the Customs officers at Mangaluru airport seized 741g of 24-carat gold worth Rs 38.53 lakh from a Kasaragod native, who arrived from Dubai. The gold powder mixed with solid gum was hidden in his rectum.

In October month, the Customs officials at Mangaluru International Airport seized 6,033.07g of gold worth Rs 3.45 crore from 12 passengers, mostly from Kerala.

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