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Monday, December 9, 2013

Coffee...... Gold coffee and ...... gold in coffee... !!!

Gold has always been a symbol of  status and power. While  24ct  is the Purest  gold, it  is too soft to make jewellery; hence to give a proper shape to 24ct  - silver, copper, zinc, nickel are added.  Just like women getting addicted to Gold, men – especially South Indian are addicted to coffee – its aroma, taste and flavour.

Today there was this report in Dinamalar that arising out of the RBI guidelines, some frontline Gold sellers are steered towards closure of their shops !!  To curb the deficits RBI and Central Govt had taken a slew of measures which included raising the duty on imported gold and ban on import and sale of gold coins.  Some state that the shops are impacted by shortage of raw gold for making jewellery – resulting in reduced sales and reduced profits.  Earlier imports used to take place based on L/C which also stands withdrawn – resulting in direct payments which has also impacted the gold purchases.  Some reputed Gold sellers have booked losses and some have resorted to closure of some branches too. 

Gold dust refers to fine particles of gold produced by machining or occurring naturally. You may have seen nearer traditional gold shops that people would sieve the waste – looking for some gold particles which may provide them some meagre income.  Gold panning, is a form of placer mining and traditional mining that extracts gold from a placer deposit using a pan. The process is one of the simplest ways to extract gold, and is popular with geology enthusiasts especially because of its cheap cost and the relatively simple and easy process.  Gold panning is a simple process. Once a suitable placer deposit is located, some gravel from it is scooped into a pan, where it is then gently agitated in water and the gold sinks to the bottom of the pan.

Had earlier on a different note posted about Guatemala's toxic river of trash  attracting thousands of 'miners' risking life in search of gold and jewellery.

Gold brought to India attracts customs duty – thereby increasing the purchase price ….smuggling (bringing in gold illegally) has been practised for many years and every now and then, we read reports of Customs catching wrongdoers.  They keep trying newer methods until they too are exposed.  This generally happen at Airport as travellers would try to smuggle in gold – hiding it in their body or inside their luggage. 

Recently there was news on a different rail….. yes - Four passengers in a 2nd class airconditioned coach of the Guwahati-Chennai express prepared to alight as the train approached Chennai Central ~ close to accomplishing another trip….. but  they were being watched by sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. As the train entered the station, two DRI men swiftly closed in and arrested them. The investigators found they were carrying 9kg of gold worth Rs 2.7 crore concealed in two power inverters. Meanwhile,two other operations were underway at Howrah and Guwahati railway stations, where DRI men seized gold bars weighing a combined 18kg,worth Rs 5.4 crore,from two men of the same smuggling cartel controlled by a man based in Chennai.

The investigation Agency stated that they had busted the gang that brought at least of 5kg gold every day to Chennai from Myanmar via Guwahati. The cartel sensing the enhanced security at airports, thought it novel to cross the land border and then travel  by train.  Several  jewellery manufacturers as well as leading jewellers in Chennai were reported to be their customers. This certainly marked  a change in the modus operandi of gold smugglers. Smugglers earlier struck deals with migrant workers and refugees,offering them a pittance to bring gold to the city.

South Indians are so fond of coffee that their mornings begin with a big tumbler of coffee taken hot in the morning. Not ordinary Coffee, but Filter coffee – made from decoction dripping down from  coffee powder made of  dark roasted coffee beans, chicory – the hot water percolates through the thick powder solely by gravity and not under pressure.  To this decoction, is added milk, enough not to change the colour and aura.  The fresh coffee beverage literally wakes you up and makes you open to the day’s realities.  It has a stimulating effect on people due to its caffeine content and is the most consumed beverages of the World. ~ and premium brands of coffee are called ‘Gold coffee’…..

The Customs Officials are Mangalore are well-versed in their coffee – going  by this report in The Hindu….  In what is a unique seizure for the Customs officials of the Mangalore International Airport, nearly 505g of gold was found in dust form and mixed with coffee powder, in seemingly innocuous tin containers brought in by a passenger flying in from Dubai.

photo courtesy : The Hindu

Outwardly they were only coffee packets but when coffee maker’s label was removed, a small hole — which had been soldered intact – was revealed. It was through this that gold dust has been inserted into the coffee can. In all, more than Rs. 17 lakh worth of gold was seized, said Customs officials. The gold dust was spotted after scanners revealed the contents of two tin cans to be of “an unusually different density”. On questioning, 20-year-old Mohammad Ashraf, from Kasaragod district, who arrived at 7.30 a.m. on an Air India flight from Dubai, admitted to gold dust being mixed in the container.

Details, as narrated by Customs officials, are as intriguing as the seizure: The cans, when removed from the suitcase were intact, with no visible signs of a tamper. However, when the coffee maker’s label was removed, a small hole — which had been soldered intact – was revealed. It was through this that gold dust has been inserted into the coffee can. “We had never seen something like this, and it is through the sharp eyes of the person manning the scanner that it could be spotted,” said a Customs official. The powder had to be filtered through water, and heated and reheated – a six-hour process – to extract the gold dust, added the official.

But then there are loopholes in system……it is stated that as the value of the gold seized was less than Rs. 20 lakh, a criminal case was not registered. Instead of paying around Rs. 5 lakh as duty on the gold, Mr. Ashraf will have to pay nearly Rs. 10 lakh, in the form of duty and penalty, to recover the gold, said officials. The passenger is believed to be only a “carrier” in a larger network of gold smugglers. The latest seizure adds to the more than 12 kg of gold seized at the airport in the past five months. This is a drastic jump from the 300g of gold seized in 2012. The increased seizures have had an effect and passengers have started to voluntarily declare their gold. Since November 23, Customs duty of over Rs. 4.5 crore has been collected from around 200 passengers, compared to just around Rs. 14 lakh last year, they said.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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