DHAKA – Do high taxes encourage gold smuggling to Bangladesh? Amidst news of raids and seizures and human mules with gold bars up their rectums, the nation’s jewellers are not amused. Bangladesh doesn’t own a single gold mine!
Bangladeshi authorities have confiscated half a tonne of gold from a top jeweller, officials said on Sunday (June 4), amid a crackdown on a booming smuggling trade.
Customs officials raided five outlets of Apan Jewellers over several days last month and seized around 500kg of gold and half a kilogram in diamonds.
“We asked the owners to provide legal receipts (for the gold) but they failed to provide anything,” Customs Intelligence and Investigation Department chief Moinul Khan told reporters.
Gold smuggling in Bangladesh is at a record high. Authorities say a sizeable amount is sold to unscrupulous local jewellers, who avoid paying high import duties by buying on the black market.
Authorities have seized 1.1 tonnes of gold at the country’s airports in the past three years – an unprecedented haul. Much of the gold was smuggled by human “mules”, sometimes inside their rectums.
The gold confiscated from the jewellers during the raid has been handed to the central bank and will be sold at auction, an official said.
The raids occurred after the son of Apan’s owner allegedly bragged of his wealth after he was arrested in connection with a separate high-profile case.
Investigators looking into the source of the family’s wealth found a huge stash of unreported gold worth nearly 2.5 billion taka (S$42.8 million).
Bangladesh does not have any gold mines of its own, and relies on imports to fashion rings and other treasures for its booming middle class.
The country has imposed strict quotas and high customs duties on gold, effectively choking off legal bullion imports for flourishing jewellery outlets.
The local jewellers’ association wants the government to allow the bulk import of bullion at a reasonable tax rate.
The association denies wrongdoing and describes raids at jewellers and other businesses as “conspiracies” to destroy the industry, which it says employs 2.2 million people.