Customs officials at Lohegaon Airport on Monday intercepted and seized foreign currency worth Rs 1.3 crore from two passengers who were on their way to Dubai. The seized notes, comprising US$ 1,72,800 and 30,000 Euros, were hidden inside casseroles and covered with upma to mislead customs officials. The passengers — Nishant Vijay Yetam, a resident of Nagaothane in Raigad district, and Harsha Ranglani Raju, a resident of Chembur in Mumbai — had kept the casseroles inside their check-in baggage, said officials with the customs department. Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise, M V S Choudhari, said the two passengers were going to Dubai via Air India flight IX211. Officials suspect the two men were working for a syndicate involved in smuggling goods and cash.
An immigration officer, who was going through Yetam’s documents, sensed something was amiss and alerted the customs officials. When customs authorities checked Yetam’s luggage again, they found a casserole with upma in it. Hidden under a thin layer of upma, officials found a black polythene bag that contained US $86,600 and 15,000 Euros. Another passenger, Raju, was also found to be carrying a casserole in his bag, with foreign currency hidden in it, said officials.
“… Detailed examination of the checked-in baggage of the passengers resulted in total recovery of foreign currency, valued at Rs 1,30,78,695. Most of the currency was cleverly concealed below the steel casing of four casseroles, containing food articles kept in their checked-in baggage. All the currency was seized under the belief that the same were attempted to be smuggled out of India and hence liable for confiscation under provision of the Customs act, 1962,” according to a statement by Choudhari.
He said that the passengers, who were arrested and produced before a magistrate, had admitted to possessing and carrying the foreign currency.
Additional Commissioner, Customs. J K Meena said the officers would continue their investigation to find more information about members of the syndicate. They have also raided a few houses in Mumbai, from where one of the two arrested accused hailed, he said. In June, customs officials had seized 444 grams of gold ornaments, valued at Rs 13.17 lakh, from a passenger who had arrived from Dubai. The passenger, identified as Mohammed Afauque, had hidden the jewellery in the pocket of a pair of jeans kept in his bag.