Each day, more than $18.6 billion of goods travel by air, a third of world trade by value, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
A new United Nations report, however, points out that one of the goods is smuggled gold bars out of DR Congo. The report added that some of these metal bars are flown out from Entebbe airport.
“Airlines play an important role in enabling the transport of unwrought gold from DR Congo to Dubai. For example, four people involved in the gold sector told the UN group of experts that it was common practice for smugglers to purchase additional, empty seats in order to maximise the amount of gold smuggled on one single trip,” notes the report, released less than two weeks ago.
Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways are the main airlines plying the Lubumbashi and Dubai routes. Ethiopian Airlines told the UN experts it had not put in place measures to check transported gold and to authenticate the identity of its carriers.
Kenya Airways told the group that it did not allow the transportation of gold as hand luggage. However, the UN experts wrote that based on the answers it had received from Iata and the airline officials, it was the responsibility of the custom officials to ensure that transporters of gold had the necessary documents before takeoff.
The experts, though, found out that the custom officials around the region were not doing their job well.
The report further notes: “several sources, including custom agents and people involved in the gold sector, told the group that smugglers bribe state agents at Entebbe, Nairobi and Lubumbashi airports to pass unhindered through airports.”
One of the effects of smuggled gold being transported as hand luggage aboard aircrafts is that it denies the country tax revenue.
It also stifles investment opportunities for the international carriers of valuable items. Companies such as Brinks, G4S, Ferrari Worldwide, Malca-Amit, which deal in the transportation of valuable commodities, could stay away from East Africa if smugglers are finding an easy passage through the airlines.