THIRTEEN ‘insiders’ have been arrested in the past five months for attempting to smuggle gold at terminal T2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). But the involvement of three middle-rung and “reasonably well paid” employees has left officials of the Customs and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) baffled.
In the past two weeks, a staffer of ground handling firm Celebi Nas, Kanumetta Jagadish Babu, deputy manager (facility services), GVK, and Aniket Oroskar, a technical supervisor working with an outdoor advertising agency displaying advertisements at the international terminal, were caught while receiving and trying to pass on a consignment of smuggled gold. What they had in common is access to different areas of the terminal and the freedom to move around without raising suspicion- something they took advantage of, said customs officials.
The woman, Babu and Oroskar had managed to evade arrests for cleared similar consignments 20 times, eight times and 22 times before. All 13 arrests have led to seizure of 36 kg gold worth Rs 9 crore and have included cabin crew members and ground handling staff.
“We were taken aback as this is a shift from trolley handlers, housekeeping staff being used as handlers to smuggle gold. These people earn decent salaries and are in respectable positions so it baffled us to see them involved in smuggling,” said Assistant Commissioner of Customs (AIU) Kiran Kumar Karlapu. For departure, the space between security check and boarding and for arrival, the space before immigration is considered sterile. According to Customs, the exchange of gold happens the most in such sterile pockets.
With the arrests of these thirteen insiders, the profile of the accused has changed. “Now, everyone is a suspect,” said a customs official.
Further, housekeeping staff have been banned by customs from using cell phones and employees working with passengers are instructed to stick to older models of cell phones during duty hours. Customs have also sought help from CISF to increase vigilance at staff exit points.
“We are now tracking the organised crime syndicates, approaching insiders at bus stops, through frequent fliers and former employees,” he said. An official said that passes are renewed every year after police verification is done by Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. MIAL officials did not wish to comment on the matter.