One of the two people arrested by the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai Customs for trying to smuggle Rs 72 lakh cash and banned iridium powder worth Rs 60 lakh is a juvenile, said Custom officials, confirming the theory that smugglers have roped in services of gullible teenagers to carry out their dirty work.
Ahmed Aslam (17) and his father Mohammed Abdul Kadir Rangrez (48) were nabbed on Wednesday when they were clearing the green channel.
Customs officials ascertained that Aslam is an active member of an international smuggling and Hawala mafia who had carried out 30 such sorties in the past one year.
Aslam, a passenger booked on an Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Dubai-Hong Kong flight landed at the international airport at 6 am on September 12 after which he was scheduled to board an 11.30 am flight to Dubai on the same day. He was, however, offloaded by airline staff from the Dubai flight after they noticed suspicious powder in his luggage.
Since he was unsure what to do next, he called his father, who was waiting for him to disembark at Dubai airport. Soon, after realising the gravity of the situation, the father boarded an Air Arabia flight and landed in Mumbai at 8.30 pm and met his son in the transit area. With no option left other than to exit the Mumbai airport, the duo proceeded to the green channel where Sameer Wankhede, deputy commissioner of AIU, intercepted them. “The two were arrested while clearing the green channel and Rs 72 lakh of Indian currency and banned Iridium powder worth Rs 60 lakh was recovered from Aslam,” said a Customs source, on condition of anonymity.
“While the Iridium powder was stashed inside the luggage, the cash was placed in a false bottom of the suitcase, covered with tamarind on top,” said the Custom official.
The modus operandi reveals the role of an international smuggling mafia that uses susceptible teenagers in the racket.
According to officials, Ahmedabad resident Aslam travels from his city to Hong Kong with a stopover in Mumbai, as there are no direct flights to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong he picks up the Iridium powder and the currency and flies to Dubai where his father takes the delivery.
“Apart from the involvement of the teenager, this racket exposes how Indian currency is circulated via different countries through hawala. The information revealed during the initial investigation clearly indicates that biggies in this trade are using juveniles, as they are certain these youth wouldn’t raise suspicions, said the official.
“During investigations, we found that he has conducted over 30 such trips in one year. It becomes a very serious matter when juveniles are involved,” the source said. Commissioner Airport Customs, Mumbai, P M Saleem said, “We have arrested him and are investigating the matter from all angles.”