- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
A Bangladeshi cleaning crew found nearly $2 million in gold bars the other day in an airplane toilet. An unknown culprit, who fled the Dhaka airport, the flydubai plane, and the 65+ pounds in gold before he could be apprehended, tried to smuggle 280 bars out of Dubai to the Bangladeshi capital.
The Daily Mail reported that Bangladeshi customs officials knew about the golden cargo, featuring photos of the proud officials in front of their booty.
But many questions remain. Was the plane toilet still making the universally scary sucking sound when flushed, or was it muffled by its precious content? Was it the smugglers’ initial intent to put the gold in the toilet, or was it dumped there when they got scared of being caught? And why do incidents like this keep happening?
In a twin event earlier in October at the Chennai Airport in Delhi, the Indian Directorate of Revenue Intelligence retrieved 32 golden nuggets weighing 2.2 pounds each from an Air India plane’s lavatory, where they were left by anxious smugglers who eventually ended up being arrested.
Gold, being pretty heavy, has to be a difficult thing to smuggle. It’s hard to swallow (though it is done regularly) or to easily disguise as a plaster Jesus statue without it being suspiciously heavy. But there probably are probably smarter ways to go about it. Indian smugglers have melted their gold into staples, TV parts and toy batteries.
The gold-in-the toilet incident makes for some pretty great hypotheticals and obvious puns (such as Time magazine’s "flushing gold down the toilet"), but it is also an indication of a larger gold-smuggling problem in the region. According to The Daily Mail, in the last eight months Dhaka airport customs recovered gold weighing a total of 300 kg in over 100 hauls. In India, smuggling has also been on the rise with the government increasing taxes on gold imports, most recently from 10% to 15%, the Times of India reported.
The country is the world’s largest gold consumer, and the metal still a popular savings method. The government has been trying to curb gold imports in an effort to salvage the ever-weakening rupee. The gold is often smuggled in from Bangladesh, sometimes recovered from some deep trouble.