Customs officials at Mumbai international airport confiscated huge quantities of gold on Wednesday, by intercepting passengers coming in from Bangkok and the Middle East. Officials suspect an insider’s involvement in the biggest haul of the night.
In the first seizure, officials of the Air Intelligence Unit, a unit of Customs, intercepted A M Altaf, who had arrived from Dubai by flight 9W-537. They found 50 gold bars weighing 5.83 kg, and worth R1.54 crore. The AIU caught Altaf when he was keeping the bag containing the smuggled gold near the Air India baggage service counter. The bag was to be taken out by an airport staffer.
An AIU officer said, “We assume a staffer inside the terminal was to collect the bag and clear it. However, when Altaf was trying to leave the bag, the AIU officers caught him red-handed.” In the next confiscation, Navneet Sharma, who arrived from Bangkok, was apprehended with gold worth Rs 16.5 lakh on his person, in the form of a belt buckle and the base of his wrist watch.
A Sri Lankan national, Ponnambalam Sujanthan, who had come from Dubai by 9W-937, was nabbed and 1.2 kg of gold worth R31.7 lakh was seized. The gold was in the form of crude kadas, a chain and gold bars, and was hidden in his underwear. Finally, gold worth Rs 24.5 lakh was seized from one Zahid Sharig Nore, who had arrived from Sharjah by flight G9-406.
It was recovered from inside the speakers of a music system he was carrying. The total gold seized weighs 8.592 kg and is worth nearly Rs 2.26 crore. Speaking to mid-day, an AIU official said, “All cases were detected based on observing the passengers; no specific information was received about the smuggling.”
T2 staffer eludes arrest
On Tuesday morning, the Mumbai Customs made an unclaimed seizure of around 2 kg of gold bars from the men’s washroom near belt 10. However, they couldn’t catch the insider who was to take the gold out of the airport. Customs officials then confiscated the passes and mobile phones of all the loaders present in the arrivals.
An AIU official, confirming the incident, explained that this was done to catch hold of a staffer, suspected to be from one of the ground handling agencies at the airport, who was allegedly supposed to clear the gold and take it out with him.