After a recent spate of gold smuggling incidents involving Jet Airways staffers, this time it’s a senior Etihad employee who was caught working hand in glove with a gold smuggler. The fact that even a senior official, an airline security manager at that, was involved in smuggling has alarmed Customs officials, who have now begun to question the integrity of private airlines’ security.

On Monday morning, the Etihad flight EY 212 (Abu Dhabi-Mumbai) landed in the city at 8.25 am, and one of the passengers, Sunil Jagwani emerged from the plane carrying gold bars concealed in a cigarette packet. Around 8.50 am, Jagwani was spotted handing over the package to Etihad’s security manager, Deepak Golani, who is in charge of all Etihad flights operating out of Mumbai.

Air Intelligence Unit officers caught Etihad flier Sunil Jagwani (in green) handing over a cigarette packet stuffed with gold bars to the airline’s security manager, Deepak Golani
Air Intelligence Unit officers caught Etihad flier Sunil Jagwani (in green) handing over a cigarette packet stuffed with gold bars to the airline’s security manager, Deepak Golani

Golani was to clear the yellow metal out of the terminal, but the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai Customs caught him and Jagwani at the arrival hall itself. The recovered foreign-marked gold bars and cut biscuits weighed over 1.34 kg and are valued at Rs 33.08 lakh. The flier, Jagwani also admitted to handing over gold to Golani on four earlier occasions.

At first, Golani denied any connection with the flier, but using WhatsApp messages, phone call records and CCTV footage, the AIU confirmed that the duo had worked together in the past. “Golani clearly denied they had any connection with each other. Only after thorough investigations was their connection confirmed. It was through call records that Golani was confirmed to be acting as a helper in the case,” explained a Customs official.

An airline official revealed that Golani was the security in-charge for all Etihad flights from Mumbai, and is the third ranking official at Etihad India, drawing up to Rs 1.5 lakh a month. “He was in a post where he should have been assisting Customs and other agencies in anti-smuggling and other security operations.

Golani has abused his position as the security chief of Etihad and gained unrestricted access to the sterile areas of the airport and indulged in such smuggling. It is shocking that such a senior official would stoop to the low of smuggling gold,” said an AIU official.

Both Golani and Jagwani were arrested, although the amount they were found smuggling was worth less than a crore. The duo will be charged based on Jagwani’s confessions of past clearances.

Airline speak
“Etihad Airways adheres to all international standards for its staff and does not tolerate behaviour that contravenes international or local laws and regulations. The airline will continue to assist the authorities in their investigation of this matter,” said an Etihad Airways spokesperson.