While lost luggage is arguably the most common source of angst and exasperation among fliers, a particular section of fliers passing through the green channel of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) seem all too eager to leave behind their baggage, anonymous and unclaimed. The Mumbai Airport Customs department manning the green channel of the CSIA with hawk-eyed vigilance, have been observing this curious new trend recently, where smugglers, anticipating that they might be nabbed while going through Customs screening, are abandoning their consignments at the baggage screening counters after divesting them of their name tags.
In the past week, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai Airport Customs has seized three such anonymous consignments. On May 26, AIU officials seized 1,000 cartons of branded cigarettes worth over Rs 10 lakh. The cartons were lying abandoned in the screening area, and despite repeated announcements by the officials on duty, no one turned up to claim them. The consignment carried a Dubai tag.
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. The medicines were manufactured in India, but the consignment had come in from Dubai. On June 1, AIU officials recovered 500 cartons of expensive branded cigarettes, again unclaimed, valued at over Rs 5 lakh. Officials revealed that the brand is on high demand, especially among college goers. None of the consignments bore name tags of the flier who had flown them in.
With vigilance at an all-time high at the airport, officials believe that this is a new trend resorted to by smugglers, to avoid being nabbed. “We can understand that they decided to dump the baggage because they knew they would be intercepted. What is more important for us at this point of time is to find out who tipped off these smugglers that they could be intercepted,” revealed a Customs official, on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, Commissioner, Mumbai Airport Customs, P M Saleem, said, “In the recent past, we have come across many such cases where baggage has been left unclaimed, and divested of the owner’s name tag. The carriers who are operating for their bosses must have been told that they will be caught, and so decided to dump the consignments. We are carrying out a detailed investigation of the matter, and will investigate whom these consignments belong to. We also aim to nab those who are passing on information to these smugglers about the strong security check at the airport.”
On March 12 this year, the AIU team arrested three people, including two CSIA employees in connection with a smuggling racket. While the arrested smuggler would drop the consignments into a designated waste box, the airport employees would pick them up discreetly. Both the employees were terminated on the very day of their arrest (‘Airport employees helped smuggler by taking out the trash,’ March 14). Vigilance has been at an all-time high ever since