Smuggler couple walking through green channel caught red-handed

Nov 22, 2011, 08:06 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh

The burgeoning Customs haul at the international airport grew richer, as a couple was nabbed on Sunday night while trying to slink into the domestic airport in order to avoid a Customs check. They had landed at Sahar airport with a consignment of smuggled electronic appliances. 

Busted! While trying to pass through the green channel, Customs officials
stopped the duo and found that they were trying to smuggle four cameras
and three mobiles. Representation pic

The Mumbai Customs nabbed Mitesh Kothari (45) with his partner in crime Bhavna Sanjay Bhanushali (30) with four high-definition cameras and three premium mobile phones that are collectively valued around Rs 60 lakh.
During their interrogation by Customs officials, it was revealed that Bhanushali is from a poor background and was lured into the profession by Kothari, promising that it would be lucrative.

Customs officials further added that Bhanushali got her passport in February 2011, and since then she has made more than half a dozen trips abroad. For each trip she was paid Rs 5,000 including airfare and stay.

"Kothari used the innocence of Bhanushali as a tool to get his work done. In her statement Bhanushali admitted that it was Kothari who convinced her to join his network as she required the money," said and AIU official on condition of anonymity.

The duo arrived in Mumbai on a Singapore Airlines flight number SQ 426 and by mistake walked through the green channel, when an AIU team led by Deputy Commissioner of Customs Sameer Wankhede nabbed them. 

Disclosing the modus operandi of the duo, an official from AIU said, "Kothari despite being a Mumbai resident
would book a domestic ticket after landing at Mumbai airport so that he can enter the domestic terminal posing as a transit passenger. He was aware that the screening of baggage is not very intensive at the domestic terminals. Once he reached the domestic airport, he would exit from the terminal."

Air tickets for Chennai and Hyderabad were also recovered from two.

"Kothari is an old player in smuggling in comparison to Bhanushali who is relatively new to the profession. During investigations, Kothari accepted the he employed Bhanushali as a carrier and paid her Rs 5,000 per trip. Kothari also claimed that the entire luggage was his and Bhanushali was innocent," said an AIU official.

Talking to MID DAY, Airport Customs Commissioner, P M Saleem said, "The two were booked under different provisions of Indian Customs act and were produced in a city court."

Rs 5,000
The amount paid to Bhanushali to act as a carrier on every trip

Rs 60 lakh
The value of the booty they were trying to smuggle in

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