Hollow objects in the shape of bats, balls and statues are being used to transport explosives, including RDX, suspects Mumbai Airport Customs.
The possible modus operandi came to light when the Delhi police, who recently intercepted Nepalese nationals in possession of these hollow objects, exchanged information with Mumbai Airport Customs, which recently caught a cargo flight and intercepted similar articles.
While the officials earlier believed the objects were being used to smuggle drugs, the inputs from Delhi have turned their attention to the explosives angle.
S N Srivastava, Special Commissioner, Special Cell, Delhi Police, confirmed that Mumbai Customs and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) were briefed.
“Based on intelligence input from Mumbai and Bangalore, we intercepted Nepalese nationals with a consignment of cricket bats, balls and stumps. All the items were hollow. From the past operating records of smugglers, we have learnt that the items may have been used to smuggle drugs. But we cannot rule out the possibility that they were carrying explosives. We are investigating the case from all angles to further ascertain what the consignment was for,” Srivastava said.
“When we came to know about Mumbai Customs intercepting similar consignment, we exchanged the details of our case with them. We also informed the DRI about the case,” Srivastava further added.
Customs Commissioner of the Mumbai airport, P M Saleem, could not be reached for a comment. “We are questioning both the consignors and the consignee to crack the case,” a source said.
On October 6, the Mumbai Airport Customs received intelligence about a contraband to be loaded onto Mumbai-Shenzhen Flight 5X 014 of UPS Air Cargo. Around 8.30 pm, officials asked the UPS cargo division at the city airport not to load the shipment. Ignoring instructions, the flight departed with the cargo around 9.35 pm. The official, who was coordinating with Customs, allegedly switched off his phone, making the situation appear even more suspicious. Acting on this violation, the officials asked Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) to call back the cargo aircraft under Section 106 of Indian Customs Act, 1962, that empowers officials to fire at a plane if it doesn’t land. While screening the cargo, officials found a dozen hollow cricket bats and a hollow Buddha statue. Sanjay Nichlani, gateway manager of UPS at Mumbai Airport was unavailable for comment.