July 30, 2014 / 11:43 AM / 3 years ago

Air India staff found smuggling gold

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Authorities have found 13 cases of gold smuggling by employees of the national carrier, Air India, over the past three years and the current year, the junior civil aviation minister said on Wednesday.

An Air India passenger plane takes off from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

India, the biggest buyer of gold after China, last year imposed a record 10 percent import duty and made it mandatory to export a fifth of all bullion imports to constrict its trade deficit.

But this has led to heavy smuggling, with some gold in imported vehicles and even using human mules who swallow nuggets to try to get them past airport security.

Junior Civil Aviation Minister G.M. Siddeshwara told parliament that disciplinary action has been taken against the Air India employees. He did not disclose the amount of gold smuggled or give any other details.

Government figures show that only 2.34 tonnes of smuggled gold was retrieved last year, while the World Gold Council estimated 200-250 tonnes of gold illegally entering India.

Reporting by Krishna N Das, editing by William Hardy

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