Mumbai: Another airport staffer held for smuggling gold

The Air Intelligence Unit has intercepted a senior executive from Celebi Nas Airport Services trying to receive 4.175 kg of gold from a passenger on a Doha-Mumbai flight; the mastermind, also on board the aircraft, was passing information to his conduit via WhatsApp

In yet another case of collusion between ground handling staff and gold smugglers, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs seized gold bars weighing 36 tolas (worth Rs 1.03 crore) from the passenger of a Qatar Airways flight that landed in Mumbai in the wee hours of Monday.

John Jeeson, an employee of ground handling agency Celebi Nas Airport Services (in white) was produced before the Killa Court in south Mumbai. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
John Jeeson, an employee of ground handling agency Celebi Nas Airport Services (in white) was produced before the Killa Court in south Mumbai. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

After receiving a tip-off, AIU sleuths were waiting for flight QR 556 (Doha- Mumbai) to land at its scheduled time of 2.40 am on Monday. John Jeeson (25), a senior executive working for Celebi Nas Airport Services, a ground handling agency, was waiting for a passenger on board the flight, outside the aerobridge.

Mukesh Pahuja, the alleged mastermind
Mukesh Pahuja, the alleged mastermind

After the flight landed, passenger Wakas Abdul Hamid Shaikh (24) approached Jeeson and tried to hand over the consignment, when the AIU stepped in and arrested both the accused. Shaikh’s personal search resulted in the recovery of 36 gold tola bars of 116.6 cm each, and the 4.175-kg consignment was valued at Rs 1.03 crore.

Also read: Smuggling racket busted! How catering staff entered flights with food, left with gold

Wakas Abdul Hamid Shaikh, a passenger, approached Jeeson and tried to hand over the consignment
Wakas Abdul Hamid Shaikh, a passenger, approached Jeeson and tried to hand over the consignment

Further investigations resulted in the arrest of the mastermind and financier of the scheme, Mukesh Pahuja, who was also on board the flight. During the flight, Pahuja had apparently sent Shaikh the details of the person waiting for the contraband, via messaging service WhatsApp.

Modus operandi
All three accused are Mumbai residents. They were produced before the Killa Court yesterday and remanded to police custody. Employees from Celebi Nas have been arrested for similar instances of smuggling in November 2014 and February this year. A Mumbai Customs official told mid-day, “The ground handling staff get easy access to the aerobridge, hence Jeeson stood beside the craft.

The moment an aircraft’s doors are opened, the passengers want to get out, resulting in crowding at the exit. Shaikh handed over the consignment at that moment in order to play safe.” The officer added, “The smugglers now seem to use WhatsApp as their only communication medium. In this case, too, like the last case in the previous month, the accused communicated through WhatsApp.”

Also read: Family of 3 caught smuggling 47 gold bars worth over Rs 1 crore at Mumbai airport

On April 9, mid-day had reported (‘Smugglers busted: Catering staff entered flights with food, left with gold’) how two employees of Skygourmet Flight Kitchen planned to use a clever modus operandi to leave with food carts laden with gold bars worth Rs 1.65 crore retrieved from four aircraft.

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