It’s nobody’s business but yours how much wealth you’re carrying on your body. Even when you fly, it’s not always a good idea to let on when you have gold. If you fall, asleep someone could take it off of you. Of course, declaring to customs is important, and you can get in a lot of trouble if someone decides you’re smuggling instead of just protecting your personal property. Can you get away with hiding gold?
How to hide gold from the metal detector at the airport? You can replace any metal part of anything you’re bringing with gold. However, a metal detector will catch it. Even in powder or liquid form, metal detectors detect metal. The best you can hope for is to pass it off as some other metal or to make it appear to be a jewelry piece.
Over the last year, a whole lot of people have been trying to smuggle gold from Dubai to India. Their efforts have gone mostly fruitless because they keep getting caught. Metal detectors will pick up gold because it’s a metal. Moreover, there are gold sniffing dogs. Even eating the gold won’t hide it from fido. If you don’t want to end up explaining to your friends and family why you’re in a hospital in a foreign country with police feeding you laxatives, don’t try to swallow gold.
Some of the efforts have been hilarious, while others were just sad and poorly thought through. A man replaced the underwires in a bra with gold wire and put gold bars in women’s underwear inside a purse which he packed in a suitcase. He then tried to get through a security checkpoint with 794 grams of gold bars and wire worth Rs 29,96,079.
India no longer has a law against gay sex, but posing as a crossdresser to smuggle precious metals through a security checkpoint is still not the best way to fly under the radar. Sure, the country is opening up a bit, but this wasn’t a good idea at all. Likewise, the gentleman who tried stashing gold in his anus and denied it was there probably wasn’t thinking too clearly. Not many people would be if they were that uncomfortable.
If you’re determined to try and get away with hiding gold and passing through airport security then you need to keep two things in mind: The more you have, the greater the risk, and maybe don’t be greedy. Taking less with you is one way to make sure you don’t look like you’re part of a major criminal organization if you do get caught. Keep it under $10,000, and preferably a whole lot less.
Taking a small amount is less risky and carries lesser penalties. Anything under $2500 is typically not a commercial quantity, and though you can be penalized (more on that later) it’s a much smaller risk.
The smuggling issue is more intense in India right now because local demand is higher than domestic production. The people of India love gold, so the duty tax to import it has gone up to ten percent. This leads to a lot of people wanting to get their gold into the country. If you’re going to try and move gold clandestinely, pick a location where they aren’t actively on the hunt for gold smugglers every minute of the day.
Where Can You Stash Gold
Assuming you’re willing to take the risk, then finding ways to stash gold isn’t all that hard. You can always try hiding gold inside of a gutted out golden watch. The watch already has the metal inside it so that it wouldn’t be so suspicious.
You could wear a wig and replace the bobby pins that hold it in place with golden wire pins. Similarly, you could try mixing powdered gold in with similar substances like baby powder, or coffee. Perhaps adding a few grains inside a strongly scented perfume would work, though the dogs would likely still smell it.
Women’s jewelry is a great place to hide that glitter. You can use cheap paints to cover up the true nature of the item, and since it’s already metal, your chances are better. It’s probably best if you don’t try and wrap it up like a gift since gifts have to be declared at customs almost everywhere.
Hiding a small gold coin that’s 1/2 to 1/10 of an oz. inside a beautiful metal and stone bracelet can be effective. In fact, you can get lighter clay pieces that look just like a real stone to reduce the weight of the item and help compensate for the weight of the gold inside.
For a coin that’s less than 25 mm, you can pick up these lovely Panda Hall bracelets with empty bezels from Amazon. All you’ll need is a touch of hot glue, a coin, and something to cover it with.
If you’re seeking more variety in the shapes and styles available, a necklace can be the perfect stash spot. Since you can find necklace bezels in much larger sizes, and plenty of forms, a coin or other small amount of gold will fit better than inside a bracelet. Bastex makes multipacks of different colored necklace bezels so you can bring more than one piece with you. You’ll find them on Amazon along with the clear dome pendant covers to make it look like a finished product.
Legal Loopholes & Pitfalls
The good news is that you may not have to declare your gold at all. If you’ve brought a piece of jewelry from home, then you aren’t obligated to declare it explicitly at customs. At least, not in the USA. You may want to check local laws in other countries before you assume anything. The other side of that coin is that when you buy abroad, you do have to declare your purchase.
Fortunately for most Americans and tourists traveling through the USA, there are plenty of exemptions you can potentially qualify for. If your only concern is saving on those duty fees and you’re not selling gold, then you could be in luck. Be aware places like China might not allow you to leave out of country even if it is your own personal gold jewelry from home.
For those who are worried about traveling with their jewelry or watches and getting taxed or taxed twice for something you already own, there’s an easy solution. You can register them at a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) office or the airport before you leave to avoid any confusion. This is especially important if you originally purchased the item while out of the country in the first place.
So you tried to move some gold without declaring it, and you got caught. What happens now? Even if it was a genuine accident, you could be fined and have your property confiscated. Running or lying would be a terrible idea at this point and almost certainly make things a whole lot worse. Call a lawyer.
Let it Go
Under most circumstances, for example, if you decide at the last second that it’s not worth the risk, after all, you can declare contraband and turn it over. Gold or foods won’t get you in much trouble, but drugs and weapons may be a different story. Hence, don’t try to smuggle gold inside arms, even legally registered and checked weapons.
If you were caught after you tried to pass the item off, be polite. Hopefully you have a lawyer helping you out, but either way, the penalties are similar.
- Less Than $2500- Section 592 of Customs Law says a fine of $300 will be given as a “spot penalty” for the non-declaration of a forbidden non-agricultural product, and the product will be confiscated.
- You Can Ask For a Hearing- If you’d rather go to court, you are welcome to do so. However, the fine assessed in court may be as high as a thousand dollars.
- Agricultural Products- Anything that can harbor parasites could cost you as much as $10,000. As a result, you should never try and hide your gold in any foods or other agricultural items.
- Money Laundering- Transporting commercial quantities, at least within the US, is punishable as money laundering. Fines can reach as high as $500,000 or twice the value of the gold in question (whichever is more), and you could be looking at twenty years in prison.
Metal detectors, as long as they’re functional, are going to spot metal on your person or in your luggage. You can try distracting the agents or disguising the nature of the metal, but the risk is incredibly high. Twenty years in jail for a large quantity of gold is not a consequence you should ever take lightly. A much smaller piece might be reasonable, and if it’s personal jewelry, you can always opt to simply declare and register it.
Especially if you’re planning to fly to or from India, or anywhere else that has dogs sniffing for gold, the likelihood of getting caught is more significant than your chances of getting away with smuggling.
No one can tell you what risks are worthwhile to you. Sometimes getting a gold coin through customs undeclared is worth the trouble for a person. For most of us, it’s not.