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Indian trader busted for smuggling 7 tonnes of gold from Burma

A man pans for gold in Mandalay Division’s Thabeikkyin Township. (Photo: DVB)

An Indian gold trader based in the northeastern state of Assam has been arrested in New Delhi for allegedly smuggling 7 tonnes (7,000 kg) of gold, valued at nearly US$300 million, across the border from Burma.

According to Indian media reports, Narendra Kumar Jain, a bullion trader from the city of Guwahati in Assam, smuggled the gold into India’s Mizoram and Manipur states from Chin State and Sagaing Division.

After transporting the gold overland to Guwahati, he reportedly flew it to New Delhi via a private airline, according to a probe by Indian revenue intelligence officials. Staff working for the airline have also been questioned in connection with the smuggling operation.

The investigation found that Jain made a total of 617 trips to the India capital over the past two and a half years, bringing several kilograms of the precious metal with him each time, declared as valuable cargo.

The officials said that the gold was worth a total of 20 billion Indian rupees ($298 million).

Indian authorities said that on 11 September, a truck bound for the Burmese border was seized in the West Bengal city of Siliguri carrying $750,000 in cash, believed to be for the purpose of buying gold from Burma to smuggle into India.

In March of last year, 87 kg of gold originating in Burma was seized in Siliguri, according to law enforcement agencies. In August of this year, officials made another seizure of 58 kg in the West Bengal capital of Kolkata.

According to official figures, India legally imported 107 tonnes of gold between April and July of this year — down from 274 tonnes during the same period last year. The total for the 2015-16 fiscal year was 855 tonnes, valued at 1.79 trillion rupees ($26.7 billion), the figures showed.

Smuggling of gems and precious metals, as well as other natural resources such as teak, is rampant along Burma’s remote and porous borders with India, China and Thailand.