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Gold smuggling: Rackets exploit legal channel
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Over 30 tonnes of gold legally brought to the country by travellers last year were smuggled to India, according to an estimate by customs and CID officers.

This is in addition to gold bullions that reach the neighbouring country after being smuggled into Bangladesh, they added.Travellers legally brought around 60 tonnes of gold bullion and ornaments last year under the Baggage Rules-2016, which allows each individual to carry two gold bars, weighing 234 grams or 20.07 bhori, paying Tk 40,000 in customs duty.

But the local demand for the precious metal ranges between 20 and 26 tonnes and a large part of it is recycled. The rest was smuggled to India, which has one of the world's largest markets of gold, according to industry insiders and customs officers.

Recent recoveries of gold bullions suggest an increase in gold smuggling. Customs intelligence department seized 174kg of smuggled gold in the last fiscal year. The same agency recovered over 201kg in the first 10 months of this fiscal.

The smuggling is done with the help of employees of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh and different airlines, especially Biman, the officials said.

Besides, the Border Guard Bangladesh seized 50.79kg of gold from smugglers in 2021. But BGB has already seized over 55.49kg of gold this year.

A top official of the Criminal Investigation Department said only about one out of every 10 stashes gets caught.

Interestingly, since the gold policy was enacted in 2018, only 253kg was imported for business purposes through LC (letter of credit) as of February this year, said Abdur Rouf, immediate past director general of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), at a briefing on February 27.

Officials said the smugglers buy gold bullions from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Malaysia.

They then contact Bangladeshi individuals flying back home, giving each the legal amount of gold to carry back home. The smugglers give the travellers tax money, and an additional amount in return for the favour.

After the travellers reach Bangladesh, members of the racket receive the gold from them.

Citing statistics, Sanuwarul Kabir, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Customs House, said over four tonnes of gold bullions were brought through Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport under the Baggage Rules in January this year.

A top customs official said the government has earned almost Tk 500 crore in revenues from travellers who brought gold under the Baggage Rules last year.

Besides, one can bring gold ornaments weighing 100 grams under the rules without paying any duty. Customs officials do not keep records of these ornaments.

Bangladesh Jewellers' Association (Bajus) General Secretary Dilip Kumar Agarwala said importing gold through LC (letter of credit) is much more expensive with a tax of over Tk 7,000 per bhori.

Shamit Ghosh Apu, a member of Bajus, said this is why many jewellers buy the gold bars people bring under the Baggage Rules.

Gold smugglers use Bangladesh as a transit because regulations on gold import is stricter in India than in Bangladesh, said Shamit.

Gold is often used for illegal transactions to evade tax through under-invoicing.

On letters of credit, prices of goods are often mentioned a lot less than the actual prices to evade tax at the ports. In some cases, the buyers then pay the seller with gold.

Gold is also used to pay for illegal arms, they added.

Lt Col Foyezur Rahman, director (operations) of BGB, said most of the gold stashes were recovered in Jashore, Satkhira, Maheshpur, Chuadanga, Sylhet, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj and Cox's Bazar.

About the allegations that BGB members sometimes engage in gold smuggling, he said BGB men are regularly warned against gold smuggling and legal actions would be taken against anyone found involved in the racket.


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