Customs officials at the Pune Airport have rubbished the reports in section of the media which claimed that the city airport has become a safe haven for gold smugglers. Citing that the city airport is a military-operated airbase besides being a very small international aerodrome,the customs officials have said that their counterparts in Mumbai,who have made such statements,should instead have taken initiatives to cease the smuggled gold if any at the Pune Airport.
In February,media had reported that tighter security at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport,Mumbai,had resulted in smugglers taking the Dubai-Pune route before traveling to Mumbai by road. The reports were backed by two consecutive cases at Pune Airport in November/ December last year in which one Moinuddin Bappa and Ahmed Saipoddin Khadia were arrested for allegedly smuggling Rs 38 and Rs 25.72 lakh gold respectively.
The two cases cannot be tagged as those of smuggling since the profit margins in the amounts involved is very small. We had asked the two to pay the duty on the excess quantities which they were carrying and when they refused,we arrested them, said one of the customs officials at Pune Airport.
The city has two international flights A Lufthansa flight that operates five times a week between Pune and Frankfurt and an Air India flight between Dubai and Pune operating four days a week. The airport handles about 120- 150 international passengers a day. The city airport has four customs officials besides intelligence officers posted to deal with traffic as against 10 customs officials who handle 20,000 international passengers daily at the Mumbai airport. Pune Airport has two baggage scanning machines and while scanning is mandatory for all passengers,officials said that almost 10 per cent passengers are made to open their baggage everyday in Pune. The Mumbai airport also has about 15-20 international flights that operate everyday only to gulf countries. The Pune Airport thus has more customs officers to passengers ratio. Since Germany is a costly location,the smuggling possibilities boil down to only Dubai flights, said another official.
The officials said that the only possibility that smuggling can take place at a small international airport such as Pune is on the tarmac where the crew is involved. But in Punes case,this possibility is nullified as the airport is a military airbase and there are checks for every entry, he said. When Newsline contacted PSRK Sudhakar,airport director,his office said the airport director has no role to play.