The Mumbai Customs have foiled nearly thousands of smuggling cases in the last two years, according to Customs officials. While the breakthroughs were made with the combined efforts of Customs intelligence and inputs provided by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), most of the tip-offs also came directly from smugglers wanting to get an upper hand over their competitors.
Sources from within the Customs establishment stated that conflict of interest among smuggling syndicates tremendously helps law enforcers in seizing banned substances. “Intelligence comes from different sources including operators having conflict of interest with their rivals who want consignments busted, so that the gangs face heavy losses,” said a source.
“Officials seized a lot of consignments that included memory cards, expensive watches, cell phones, saffron powder and imported cigarettes, as they had specific inputs about the consignment, the carrier and the modus operandi,” he said. “The rival party calls up the control room and gives precise details of the operations,” added the source.
“One of the primary reasons is that the number of people involved in this illegal business has increased in comparison to the gangs that operated a few years back. Moreover, with the vigilance at Mumbai airport at an all time high, smuggled consignments that manage to make it to the market affects the market credibility of rival gangs,” said the source.
On May 26, AIU officials seized 1,000 cartons of branded cigarettes worth Rs 10 lakh. The cartons were lying abandoned in the screening area, and despite repeated announcements by the officials, no one turned up to claim them.
On the same day, AIU officials also recovered a consignment of diabetes medication, worth over Rs 8 lakh, again lying unclaimed in the baggage screening area.
On June 1, AIU officials recovered 500 cartons of expensive branded cigarettes, again unclaimed, valued at over Rs 5 lakh. Officials revealed that this particular brand is in high demand, especially among college goers.
The source further revealed that the three big incidents where involvement of officials at Mumbai airport in such activities was established was also exposed by information provided by such groups.
On December 30, 2011, MiD DAY had reported (‘Nabbed smugglers spill the beans on customs employee’) how a driver employed with Customs helped smugglers clear their consignments. The involvement of the driver was a tip off.
Similarly, on March 12 the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai airport customs intercepted three people, including two Mumbai International Airport limited (MIAL) officials.
The smuggler would drop the consignment in a waste bin and the two workers would get it out of the airport. On August 10, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in association with the AIU, intercepted arrested five persons, including two CISF personnel, for smuggling gold.
Commissioner, Mumbai airport customs, P M Saleem was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
In year 2011-12 the Mumbai airport customs intercepted more than 2,000 small and big consignments. In financial year 2012-13 till date the number of cases have already crossed 2,000.