Control how it goes out... Using passengers to carry gold other than the jewellery they are wearing has been standard practice of those trying to get it through unofficial channels. Banning hand carried gold will deal a body blow, according to Ahmed Bin Sulayem of DMCC. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai plans to take the global initiative to put an end to ‘hand-carried’ gold on airline flights, and thus deal a major blow to smuggling of the precious metal. If passengers are still intent on carrying gold – other than the jewellery they wear – then these should be duly declared before they board. 

Such plans are still in their very formative stage, but according to Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre), it’s high time a start gets made.

“We can’t wait for global centres to resolve this matter… we do not need an Elon Musk to come up with a solution,” said Bin Sulayem on a video conferencing with senior industry and other stakeholders. “There needs to be a ban on hand carrying of gold on flights.

“If the world is serious about controlling the flow of smuggled gold, then they have to start with carried gold.”

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and CEO of DMCC
Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and CEO of DMCC: "The need to start working on solutions is now..." Image Credit: Supplied

It’s doable

If airlines and airline groupings such as IATA (International Air Transport Association) can do their part, this problem can be cut down to size significantly.

“Airlines have banned the carrying of water (bottles) on board – so much has changed for them after COVID-19,” said Bin Sulayem. “It’s the right time to work with airlines to come up with a solution to the hand carry problem.

“We need to control what we can reach – it would be a mistake to believe that international centres would solve this. We just need straightforward people to come up with solutions to this problem. We don’t even need to have the smartest people – we are not talking about running the European Union.”

Declare and board
One way to resolve the issue would be to get all passengers to declare the gold they are carrying… before they board.

Say if the gold they carry is above Dh50,000, then the passenger coming into the UAE will have to make all the relevant details available and thus make the process official.

“It’s the same with cash being carried – beyond a certain limit, all of that will have to be officially declared,” said an industry source. “Such measures can be replicated for gold.”

Taking aim

For years now, commercial flights have become easiest channel for gold, in whatever form it may be in, to be carried from one destination to a market where demand for the yellow metal remains insatiable. Even during the height of the pandemic and with only repatriation flights being allowed into the country, airports and customs authorities across India caught passengers using ingenious ways to smuggle in gold.

Bin Sulayem was clear that getting all stakeholders to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to counter such activity will take time. “It may come in a few months, year, but the need is to come up with a solution that’s acceptable,” he added.

“Everyone knows there can be no gold industry without China or India. Dubai is also a big player – and that’s not going to change. But some have gone too far in spreading misinformation… or [doing so by] being uninformed.”

Blame culture

In a recent blog post, Bin Sulayem had called out these entities: “Since arriving on the international stage as a global trading centre several decades ago, Dubai has shouldered its fair share of sensationalism. In recent years the rhetoric has steadily increased, not so coincidently in tangent with the emirate’s growing success.

“Fortunately, most of today’s criticism of Dubai is more of a petit bourgeois effort to discredit its reputation in the hope that traders will overlook the inadequate offerings and hypocrisy of the trading centres they conscientiously left behind. If anything, Dubai’s ongoing success, particularly in the precious metals and diamond markets, is a shining example of how the age of monopoly by fiat is over.

“It is important for people to understand that smuggling gold into Dubai isn’t as easy or as risk-free as some of our critics might suggest. Over the past few years alone, Dubai Police have been extremely effective in arresting and prosecuting gold smugglers attempting to either import, export or use the city as a place of transit for illicit means.

“Only a few months ago, Dubai Police busted a smuggling operation that was using diplomatic baggage as a way of carrying out its activities from Dubai to India.”

Getting the global airline industry to do its part in countering such movements would be the next step…