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Toothpaste And The Innovative Gold Smugglers Of India

Pile of gold bars

We’ve all seen gold teeth, but how about gold toothpaste? Or to be more accurate, gold disguised as toothpaste. Well that’s what one innovative gold smuggler in India has done and many can’t help but be impressed with the innovative attempt. What’s even more fascinating, however is this is just the tip of the iceberg.

All That Glitters

Smuggling commodities in toothpaste tubes is nothing new, but what makes this attempt stand out is the gold itself was reduced to a paste that some are comparing to human faeces, so not exactly in a form that is pleasing to the eye or will be sought after by jewellery makers or wearers.

In order to get gold into this paste form, it is heated to extreme temperatures with kerosene, a waxy paraffin gas, typically used for everything from cooking to jet fuel. The paste was then transferred to the toothpaste container and the smuggler kept his fingers crossed. Unfortunately for him or her, it didn’t make it past the airport security at Rajiv Ghandi International Airport in Hyderabad, India.

India Is The World’s Number One Consumer Of Gold

India is no stranger to the innovative practices of the smugglers, and perhaps that is why they were able to see through the brown toothpaste disguise. Smuggling in the country is largely fuelled by the fact India is now the number consumer of gold in the world and the Indian government has responded by restricting imports and raising taxes on the imports that do come in. This has led to a boom in smuggling and illegal trading of the precious metal, and in turn, more spectacular attempts and innovation from the smugglers.

The Smuggling Boom In India

In early 2015, smugglers were caught with more than 60kg of gold, worth $2.65m, at Ahmadabad Airport, a record. The gold was thought to have been tracked from an Emirates flight arriving from Dubai and, unlike the toothpaste smuggler, was in the form of gold bars. I suppose 60kg of toothpaste would arouse just as much suspicion as gold in any form.

This is just one small part of the illegal smuggling industry. In fact, according to a report from Reuters in 2014, it is estimated that 175 tonnes of gold make it through Indian customs each year, suggesting that the country is fighting a losing battle.

It is no wonder the authorities are finding it hard to track the smugglers considering the lengths they go to and the rewards on offer. Another passenger from a flight from Dubai in 2017, manufactured gold wires, which he then covered in copper and stitched into the fabric of clothing items. Worth an estimated $5,000, this was one of the smaller hauls the customs agents stumbled across.

As far as the “Ick” factor goes, however, you would have to go some to beat the smuggling of 10kg discovered over two flights arriving at Mandruai International Airport, Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka. Wedging pieces weighing up to 600g in their bodies, children’s prams and general hand luggage, several people failed to get past the airport security. While it may seem a less innovative method, by spreading the gold, which was worth a total of £35,000, across several individuals, the smugglers walked free as the amount of gold found on them fell below the prosecutable weight.

The Value Of Toothpaste Gold

Considering the amount of trouble the smugglers went to in order to get the gold into the country, the breaking down of the gold into a paste then placing it in toothpaste tubes, you might think its value was particularly high. In fact, it was estimated as only being worth around $50,000. When seeing the kinds of sentences being handed down in response to the smuggling crime wave, however, multiple years for as little as 2kg, such lengths begin to make sense.