Bangladesh Customs gets to the bottom of gold smuggler’s ruse

Dhaka: Bangladesh detectives hit the jackpot when they stopped Mohammad Belal at Chittagong airport carrying some surprising excess baggage.

Under questioning, the 37-year-old admitted he had a dozen chunks of gold weighing 1.4kg stashed in his rectum.

Gold smuggling in Bangladesh is at a record high, officials say, with the country emerging as a major route into neighbouring India, which has slapped high taxes on gold imports.

Authorities have seized 1.1 tonnes of the precious metal at airports in the past three years – an unprecedented haul.

Investigators believe it is the tip of a golden iceberg. They say it is bought by jewellers or smuggled into India, the world’s biggest buyer of gold, and is also bankrolling a booming trade in drugs and illegal cattle.

As monitoring has been stepped up, barely a day passes without another seizure.

Detectives on Wednesday discovered 13 stone-sized gold tablets hidden in the wig of a 45-year-man as he passed through Dhaka’s international airport.

Smugglers are increasingly resorting to more drastic methods to evade detection, officials say.

“Hiding gold bars in electronic appliances, wheelchairs or in toys has become old tactics. Now they are increasingly using their rectum to carry gold,” Moinul Khan, Bangladesh’s customs intelligence chief, said.

“We give them a lungi (cloth worn by men around the waist) and a polythene bag, ask them to defecate and there comes gold from the anus. Some women were even found having carried gold in their vaginas.”

More than 100 people – mostly Bangladeshi migrant workers – have been arrested since 2014 for gold smuggling at the country’s three international airports, police say.

Khan said smuggling networks often included air hostesses, airport ground staff and cleaners, and corrupt security personnel. — AFP

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