The market value of the rescued animals was pegged at more than Rs 50 lakh. An AIU official said Arif, a native of Patna, had boarded the Thai Airlines flight (TG-318) for Bangkok that was scheduled to take off at 11.20 pm.
It was while screening his luggage that the officials got suspicious, and when they thoroughly checked the luggage, the officials found 97 live tortoises packed in eight different pouches. They then asked Arif to alight the aeroplane.
During interrogation, Arif told the officials that his friend Nasir handed over the bag to him in Mumbai, along with $300. He said it was his maiden trip. “We handed over the tortoise to the officials of the forest department,” an AIU officer said. Two months ago, the officials had caught a man trying to smuggle 57 live tortoises. He too was on his way to Bangkok.