India gold seizures hit three-year high after import duty increase

A worker shows gold biscuits at a precious metals refinery in Mumbai
A worker shows gold biscuits at a precious metals refinery in Mumbai, India March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta

NEW DELHI, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Seizures of smuggled gold in India reached a three-year high this year after the government raised the import duty on the precious metal and international flights resumed following COVID-19 curbs.

India is the world's biggest gold consumer after China and meets most of its demand through imports. In July it raised the duty on gold imports to 12.5% from 7.5% to dampen demand, bring down the trade deficit and ease pressure on the rupee.

So-called grey market operators try to avoid the import duties by selling gold at discounts to market prices, which in turn forces competing dealers to lower prices.

Customs and other agencies seized 3,083.6 kilograms of gold illegally brought in the country up to November this year, based on data made public by the Ministry of Finance in the parliament on Monday.

This was the largest amount since 2019, when 3,673 kilograms of gold was seized.

"To deter smuggling of gold, customs field formations and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) keep constant vigil and take operational measures," the Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary told the parliament.

India lifted restrictions on international travel from March 27, two years after curbs were imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi. Editing by Jane Merriman

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