Mumbai Crime: 4 held at airport for trying to smuggle wood worth Rs 10L

Three men and a female ground staffer from the international airport were caught trying to smuggle out 135 kg of agarwood to Bangkok yesterday; this is the first instance of an airport insider being involved in agarwood smuggling

A record 1 tonne of smuggle gold has been seized from the Mumbai airport this year, but the precious metal is not the only thing smugglers have been trying to sneak past Customs officials.

The three smugglers
The three smugglers

In the second instance of wood smugglers being caught this month, three passengers and one ground staff member were caught by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) yesterday. The three men, who were supposed to fly to Bangkok aboard 9W 70 at 7.50 am yesterday, were trying to smuggle out 135 kg of Agarwood, valued at Rs 10 lakh.

The wood stuffed in one of the bags
The wood stuffed in one of the bags

Tameem Hussain Shaikh, Rehan Abdul Karim Nakade, Sudarshan Vittal Kotian (a former ground staff member) and Parvati Waghmare, a current ground staff member who wasn’t on duty at the time, were caught by the CISF while they were wrapping their bags for checking them in.

The three had stuffed the Agarwood in five bags and were wrapping them up before checking them in (wrapping the luggage is not mandatory and is done to keep the bags safe). Waghmare was helping the passengers with the bags.

While insiders being involved in gold smuggling is very common, this was the first case in which an airport staff member was found helping in Agarwood smuggling. “It wasn’t the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Customs but the CISF personnel who caught these smugglers on a tip-off.

However, since the AIU handles smuggling cases, the smugglers and the five bags were handed over to them,” said an airport official. The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) took down the case and informed the Thane Forest Department (TFD) officials.

The smugglers, the staff member and the seized wood were handed over to the TFD. According to Sections 41 and 42 of the Indian Forest Act (IFA), export or import of any prohibited item is a non-bailable offence.

Inside jobs
mid-day had reported (‘Customs to crack down on Mumbai airport staffers aiding gold smugglers’, May 9) how the AIU had written letters to GVK, asking it to instruct ground handling agencies to get their employees to keep their cell phones away while on duty. This was done since many insiders were being caught helping the smugglers clear gold from the swanky terminal.

Recent case
On December 5, Memon Mudassir Mohamed Siddique, who held an Indian passport, was caught at the baggage checking during security level one of registered baggage (at the arrivals). The AIU officers made a seizure of 12 red-coloured wooden logs purported to be red sanders. The logs collectively weighed 93.55 kilograms and were worth Rs 9,35,500. Siddique was to depart to Hong Kong by Jet Airways 9W 076 at 2.05 am when he was caught.

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