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Emirates and WhatsApp named in gold smuggling bust

April 16, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A female Emirates flight attendant who flew into Hyderabad, India from Dubai was allegedly toting 13 kilograms of gold concealed in her baggage when she was arrested, Indian newspapers are reporting.

Customs detectives investigating the case say they have discovered that smugglers are using mobile-based social networking tools like WhatsApp to exchange gold.

Gold is currently worth about AUD 45,000 a kilo, so 13 kilograms is worth well over half a million dollars – AUD 586,183 at yesterday’s rates. Kilogram gold bar

According to a report in the Times of India, the flight attendant admitted the gold had been given to her in Dubai by a gold smuggler who had flown to Hyderabad on the same flight.

The report said customs police at Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International Airport detained the flight attendant and had her call the smuggler and say she had been held up at the airport “due to a technical problem”. She asked him to come and collect the gold. The smuggler, however, “smelled a rat”, grew suspicious and did not turn up. Later, customs sleuths found the smuggler had boarded a flight back to Dubai, the paper reported.

Agents contacted Dubai customs, who arrested the smuggler, an Indian who worked in Dubai under the guise of running a mobile phone company. He was deported to Hyderabad the following day.

Following the arrests, the air intelligence unit has gleaned details about gold smuggling gangs.

Apparently they favour platforms like WhatsApp Messenger, a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones that uses the internet for communication. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages as well as their location using integrated mapping features.

When the “mules” transporting the gold boarded flights from Dubai, their photos were “WhatsApped” to accomplices waiting in Hyderabad to pick the gold up. Thus those who carried the gold never knew who would receive it, but the receivers could identify the gold bearers through their photos.

According to the Times of India, the Emirates attendant claimed she was smuggling for the first time, but customs officials suspect she had smuggled gold on at least two previous occasions.

The alleged smuggler and the flight attendant are both said to have been paid 100,000 Indian rupees (AUD 1766) per kilo for their smuggling efforts. Both have been remanded in custody.

Written by : Peter Needham

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