Gold seized at Indian airport

New Delhi -

Twenty-one kilograms of gold worth nearly $1-million was seized from a commercial plane in southern India, officials said on Wednesday.

“The gold was concealed in mobile phones, packed in 80 boxes in the cargo of the plane at Chennai airport on Monday,” senior Directorate of Revenue Intelligence official MM Pathriban said.

The plane had arrived from Hong Kong.

Mobile phones are rarely imported into India in air cargo, with most suppliers sending such consignments by sea.

Officials also seized more than six kilograms of gold being smuggled by passengers at Chennai airport over the weekend.

India is one of the world's largest consumers of gold, with Indians traditionally buying jewellery and hoarding it as a financial security.

Several high-profile cases of gold smuggling have been detected at Indian airports in recent months since the government imposed strict curbs on official imports of gold.

The measure was aimed at limiting its impact on a widening current account deficit.

In November, cleaners found 24 gold bars worth more than $1.4-million in the toilet of a commercial aircraft at Calcutta airport.

Duty on imports of gold jewellery was hiked from 8 percent to 10 percent last year. The government will soon review the import curbs, federal Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

He estimated that up to 3 000kg of gold was being smuggled into the country each month. - Sapa-dpa