Mumbai: Flier paid Rs 1L as excess baggage charges to carry drugs

It was her abnormally heavy bags that gave away the Tanzanian flier; Customs officials found her carrying 74 kg of a white powder suspected to be methaqualone

Excess baggage is a nightmare for most fliers, but for this Tanzanian woman flying out of Mumbai Airport in the wee hours of Wednesday, her overweight bags not only cost her Rs 1 lakh, but also led to her being arrested for smuggling drugs.

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Chambo Fatma Basil was apprehended after her abnormally heavy bags made Customs officials suspicious. The bags were revealed to contain 74 kg of a white crystalline powder, allegedly methaqualone, which is banned under the NDPS Act
Chambo Fatma Basil was apprehended after her abnormally heavy bags made Customs officials suspicious. The bags were revealed to contain 74 kg of a white crystalline powder, allegedly methaqualone, which is banned under the NDPS Act

Chambo Fatma Basil was to fly from Mumbai to Doha by Qatar Airways (flight QR 557 that departs at 4.10 am) and was attempting to check in when she was told her bags had crossed the weight limit. She was asked to pay a hefty R1 lakh for the excess baggage, but no sooner had she paid the amount than she was surrounded by Mumbai Customs officials.

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The D batch of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) intercepted the woman after their suspicions were raised by her abnormally heavy bags. “Detailed examination of her three checked-in bags resulted in the recovery of a white crystalline powder alleged to be Methaqualone weighing 74 kg, valued at R7.4 crore,” said a senior AIU official.

The woman, who had intended to fly to Dar Es Salaam via Doha, was apprehended under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. She claimed to know nothing of the powder and said it was her cousin who had handed over the bags to her.

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The woman added that her cousin had given her the Rs 1 lakh to pay for the excess weight and even gave her an additional Rs 1,000 to hand over the bags to his wife in Tanzania. She said she had never bee involved in any smuggling activity, but the officials found that she had been to Mumbai thrice, and are trying to investigate the purpose of her visits.

An on-the-spot drug test was conducted, and preliminarily it has indicated that the powder was indeed methaqualone. “The powder has been sent to the lab and the report is yet to come. We have booked her under the NDPS Act for a non-bailable offence,” said Milind Lanjewar, Additional Commissioner of Mumbai Customs. The accused is currently in judicial custody.

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