THE AIR Intelligence Unit (AIU) at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport intercepted 17 passengers and recovered gold, electronics and other contraband worth over Rs 4 crore between March 10 and March 15. In one of the biggest cases of gold smuggling involving foreign nationals in the recent past, AIU and CSI Airport officials intercepted six Chinese passengers on March 15, three of whom had arrived in Mumbai from Hong Kong on a Jet Airways flight and the rest from Beijing on an Air China flight. After a personal search of the six passengers, the AIU officials recovered crude gold chains with pendants depicting Buddha. The passengers were also wearing leather belts around their waist with buckles made of crude gold. Officials also seized gold plates depicting Tibetan deities. The entire seizure weighed 6.176 kg, valued at Rs 1,85,28,000.
“One of the Chinese nationals had just put his luggage in the screener. After the screening procedure, he bent to pick up his luggage and one of the officials spotted a heavy gold chain dangling from his neck and we became suspicious. We followed the individual to the arrivals waiting area and intercepted him. He told us that there were two more Chinese nationals carrying gold. Both were intercepted in the waiting area,” an AIU official told The Indian Express.
“We were then alerted about three more Chinese nationals coming by the next flight. We intercepted them and found them to be carrying gold as well. All six passengers knew each other,” the official added. According to the official, this trend of smuggling contraband, mainly gold, into the country has been on the rise in the recent past and several seizures have been made in 2017.
The passengers admitted to possession, carriage, concealment and recovery of the crude gold that was being smuggled into India by them without payment of proper customs duty and in contravention of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962. The six Chinese nationals, identified as Zhan Kun, Lihue Zhou, Zhang Liming, Yang Ween, Yang Binwei and Li Jianshu, have been arrested and further investigations are on.
Eleven other passengers were intercepted between March 10 and March 14 for carrying contraband. On March 10, AIU officials searched and recovered 305 grams of assorted jewellery worth Rs 9,40,925 from the person of Sri Lankan passenger Ajantha Nilandathi Mahramba Vithange. She had arrived from Colombo and was later booked by the customs department.
Two more passengers were intercepted by the AIU on the basis of profiling on the intervening night of March 10 and 11. Sureshbhai Veljibhai Bhalani (45), a resident of Surat who had arrived from Hong Kong on a Jet Airways flight, was allegedly found to be carrying 120 pieces of ‘diamond drops’, weighing 51 carats and valued at Rs 15,30,000.
The officials said the diamonds were strung together with a plastic thread and worn like a necklace by the passenger. According to the officials, the accused works as a manager in Panim Exports, a diamond trading company. He had reportedly gone to Hong Kong to participate in a gems and jewellery exhibition.
Another passenger, Abhu Gani Subhania (27) of Jamnagar (Gujarat), who was arriving from Dubai, was found to be carrying 320 packets of saffron weighing 8 kg and valued at Rs 10,00,000.
The next day, AIU intercepted Shahin Hussain (21), a resident of Manguluru city arriving from Dubai on an Oman Airways flight. He was allegedly carrying eight gold bars weighing 928 grams and valued at Rs 28,19,250 in his pockets. On the intervening night of March 11 and 12, Sudan national Amal Elhag (44), arriving from Khartoum, was intercepted. A search of her purse resulted in the recovery of a metallic sling coated in white colour in the form of metallic rings made of gold weighing 550 grams and valued at Rs 16,70,900.
The following day, two passengers Mohammad Matloob and Mohammad Sadiq, arriving from Jeddah, were intercepted, and four cut pieces of gold bars weighing 400 grams and worth Rs 12,15,200 were recovered from their baggage.
On March 13, AIU intercepted Mohammad Faiyaz Abdulla Shaikh (39), a resident of Karwar, Karnataka, who had arrived from Riyadh on an Air India flight and was allegedly carrying three gold bars weighing 348 grams worth Rs 10,57,200. Later, on the intervening night of March 13 and 14, Dhaval Upendrakumar (29), a Portuguese national, was found allegedly carrying crude gold chain and bracelet concealed in his shoes.
The contraband weighed 982 gms, valued at Rs 29,83,300. The same night, Mohammad Ashraf Ansari (35) of Madanpura, Mumbai, was allegedly found carrying 27 pieces of gold, weighing 1,405 grams and valued at Rs 38,87,473, two iPhones worth Rs 60,000 and a Dell laptop worth Rs 43,000.
The passenger, arriving from Dubai, had concealed the gold inside a music system. Later, another passenger, Moideen Kunhi Baduvankunhi (32), a resident of Kasaragod (Kerala) arriving from Sharjah, was allegedly found with 297 pouches of Behrang brand saffron weighing 7.425 kg and worth Rs 9,50,000, in his hand baggage.
All accused were arrested and booked by the customs department. They were, however, later granted bail.