The use of returnee migrant workers by racketeers to smuggle gold to Nepal from Gulf countries and Malaysia continues unabated despite heightened security measures and surveillance on the premises of Tribhuvan International Airport.

Police said the racketeers operate smuggling networks tempt returnee migrant workers with promise of good returns for bringing a specified amount of gold from the airport without it being seized. Not only Nepali, but also Indian racketeers have been cashing in on naive youths.

Two persons were arrested in illegal possession of 475 grams of gold from the TIA premises on Thursday. Officials said Rishab Mahato, 24, of Siraha and Ambar Chamling, 41, of Khotang had collected the gold in the form of eight bracelets and two rings, which they collected from overseas returnees. Acting on reliable intelligence that gold smuggling was taking place, plainclothes cops of Metropolitan Police Crime Division on Wednesday raided room 202 of Sinamangal-based Mirchaiya Malhaniya Guest House and arrested three Indian nationals who had collected gold from returnee migrant workers. Those taken into custody with 1.866 kg of gold have been identified as Sakir Ali, 27, Abdul Satar, 28, and Pyar Mohammad, 24, of Rajasthan.

Superintendent of Police Krishna Koirala said returnee migrant workers had passed the gold through the TIA and handed it over to the Indian nationals.

The precious yellow metal was sprayed with silver paint and concealed inside the compartments of different home appliances to hoodwink security officials.

"They had used the migrant returnees from different countries to smuggle the gold," he informed.

The racketeers had been staying at the guest house for the past five days to collect the gold.

During interrogation, the Indian nationals told police that they were just assigned to collect the gold from the returnee migrant workers based on the photos provided to them. "Other persons receive and take home the gold collected by us," a police officials quoted them as saying.

Police said they had launched a wide-ranging investigation to trace the upper layers of the gold smuggling network. The returnee migrant workers are paid by racketeers from the source country via wire after the consignment of gold is received by the concerned persons in Nepal.

Customs officials and police seized an average of two kilograms of undeclared gold being smuggled into Nepal from Gulf countries every month. An overseas returnee is not allowed to carry gold exceeding 50 grams in the form of ornament free of tax and the concerned persons should produce its invoice.

Security and customs officials are on high alert to respond to newer modes of smuggling adopted by gold smugglers. According to police, most of the smuggled gold enters Nepal from Gulf countries through TIA, and Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi-Kerung points via Tibet.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 8 2021, of The Himalayan Times.