Gold smuggling likely to rise in India as festive buyers try to avoid new tax

A Indian legislation makes it mandatory for jewelers to keep records of customers’ personal identification numbers or tax code number for transactions above 50,000 rupees. (Reuters)
Updated 27 September 2017
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Gold smuggling likely to rise in India as festive buyers try to avoid new tax

MUMBAI: Gold smuggling in India, the world’s second-biggest consumer of the metal, is likely to rise during the country’s peak holiday season as buyers try to avoid paying a new sales tax and to dodge new transparency rules.
In August, India moved to include gold sales under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The law makes it mandatory for jewelers to keep records of customers’ personal identification numbers or tax code number for transactions above 50,000 rupees (SR2,870).
Indian gold demand typically rises in the last three months of the year as consumer buy more for the wedding season as well as for festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra.
“The government implemented the PMLA rule but it didn’t take efforts to popularise. Customers are not aware of the rule and are hesitating in giving necessary details,” said Surendra Mehta, secretary of the India Bullion and Jewelers Association. “Unaccounted sale will rise in the festive season as some customers are trying to buy without bills.”
The tax avoidance recalls the unintended consequences of India’s decision to raise import taxes on gold to 10 percent by August 2013.
The duty failed to curb demand but revived smuggling networks which, the World Gold Council estimates, imported 120 tons of gold in 2016, over one-fifth of total annual arrivals.
“The new rule is turning out to be counterproductive. Instead of giving required details, customers are buying without proper receipts to save tax,” said Harshad Ajmera, the proprietor of JJ Gold House, a wholesaler in the eastern Indian city Kolkata.
The sales tax on gold rose to 3 percent from 1.2 percent as part of a new nationwide sales tax regime that started on July 1.
“Jewelers are buying smuggled gold at discount in cash, then making jewelery and selling it to consumers without receipts,” said Daman Prakash Rathod, director at wholesaler MNC Bullion in the southern city of Chennai.
In India, less than 4 percent of the people pay income tax. Many tax evaders choose to park their illicit wealth in gold as it is nearly as liquid as currency in the country.
The new limit of 50,000 rupees is too low and makes it mandatory to seek identification details of almost each customer, said Kumar Jain, vice president, Mumbai Jewellers Association.
“The rule has hurt sentiments. Usually demand improves ahead of Dussehra but this year demand is very weak,” Jain said.
Indians will celebrate Dussehra on September 30, a holiday when buying gold is considered auspicious.
Rural demand for gold, the driver of two-thirds of India’s demand, was weak because of erratic monsoon rains and rising gold prices, said Mangesh Devi, a jeweler in the western state of Maharashtra, who caters mainly farmers.
Local gold prices have risen nearly 9 percent so far in 2017.
India’s food grain production from summer-sown crops is likely to fall 2.8 percent in 2017/18 from a year ago.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.