IMPHAL, India: Handout photograph released yesterday shows a scale with gold paste packs recovered from the rectum of a smuggler. - AFP

NEW DELHI: A smuggler who stashed nearly one kilo of gold paste in his rectum to get the precious metal past Indian customs has been arrested, officials said yesterday. India is the world's second-largest gold consumer and experts say smuggling has increased in recent years, including by converting the precious metal into paste form. The mule was detained on Monday after a security official noticed the "presence of metal in a body cavity" at Imphal airport in the northeastern state of Manipur.

The man, who was bound for New Delhi, was taken for questioning but "could not reply satisfactorily", the Central Industrial Security Force said in a news release. Officials then took him to the medical examination room where an X-ray of his lower body revealed four capsules filled with gold paste weighing over 900 gm. The value of the haul is around 4.2 million rupees (around $57,000), the statement added.

Demand for gold peaks in the final months of the year in India as the wedding season gets going and preparations are made for the major Hindu festivals of Diwali and Dussehra. Manipur borders Bangladesh, which experts say has emerged as a major route for smuggled bullion into India.

Smugglers have become more creative of late, with authorities discovering gold bars sewn in clothes or hidden in oral cavities, and some using wheelchairs to conceal their illicit cargo. In August, the Indian Gold Policy Centre said 300 tons of gold is estimated to be smuggled every year into the country, leading to huge revenue losses for the government. - AFP