In the first case of an insider being involved in smuggling gold at Mumbai airport this year, Customs officials caught a staffer of a ground handling firm allegedly acting as a conduit for gold worth Rs 1.5 crore on Wednesday morning. This is the second employee of the firm, Celebi Nas, to be arrested for smuggling gold at the airport.
A passenger service assistant of Celebi Nas was intercepted while trying to cross Customs with equipment shaped like a motorcycle battery.
According to Customs officials, Rohan Surve was passing through the Arrival Hall, when he was asked to put his bag through the Customs’ scanning machine.
On inspecting the battery, Customs officials found 32 gold bars weighing 4.8 kg and worth Rs 1.25 crore inside it. When the officials frisked Surve, another kilogramme of gold was found in his coat pocket, taking the total seizure value to Rs 1.5 crore.
“Surve said he was given the packet by Kiran Chotubhai Chaudhari, a passenger who had arrived from Bangkok. Chaudhari, who was waiting outside to receive the package, was also intercepted and produced in the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court for judicial custody,” said A P S Suri, Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai airport.
Last November, another staffer of Celebi Nas had admitted to having cleared such consignments 20 times prior to her arrest.
In the past five months, 13 ‘insiders’ have been arrested for attempting to smuggle gold at T2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). The 13 arrests have led to seizure of 36 kg gold worth Rs 9 crore and have included cabin crew members and ground handling staff.
Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) spokesperson said ground handling had been outsourced to CelebiNas and taking action was their responsibility. Celebi Nas officials did not respond to repeated calls, stating that the human resources head was in Delhi conducting interviews and could not be reached.
Customs officer reprimands AI for lapses by crew
In a major embarrassment for Air India, the assistant commissioner of Customs, Air Intelligence Unit, Mumbai Airport, has written to the airline’s executive director of Western Region, highlighting serious lapses in the customs clearance by Air India crew. The letter highlights how Air India crew members were caught smuggling gold, where one, Nihal Prajapati, was caught allegedly smuggling 3 kg gold valued at 78.1 lakh on a domestic Mumbai-Ahmedabad flight. “Instructions should be given to all crew operating from T2 to clear Customs without fail, irrespective of the fact that they may be on a domestic turn and any deviation from this procedure will be viewed seriously,” read the letter.