Rajendra Bajaj (49), a US passport holder of Indian origin declared the value of his baggage merely at 58 dollars (about Rs 2,300) while he alighted at the Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport from New York on late Sunday night.
However, he hardly had an idea that the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai Customs was already waiting for the diamonds that he had smartly concealed in his gold chain that he wore on his person. There was not one but 12 diamonds worth Rs 1.2 crore studded in a gold plate that was loosely fitted with his gold chain.
Additional Commissioner of Customs, G Ravindranath said that Bajaj started walking through the green channel pretending that he had nothing to declare. But the Customs authorities had prior information and he was intercepted the moment he crossed the green channel.
Though search of a hand baggage that he was carrying disappointed the authorities as nothing was found, his personal search got them what they were looking for.
Ravindranath said that Bajaj arrived from a Delta Airlines flight (number DL-16) at around 11.30 pm on Sunday. On questioning, Bajaj told the authorities that he has jewellery business in the US and the diamond studded gold chain he was wearing was his personal. But the authorities were shocked to see his passport details which revealed that he had already made three trips to Mumbai in this year. Customs officers also found that on an average he makes one trip every month. So far he had made 52 trips from US to Mumbai. Ravindranath said that they are investigating the purpose of Bajaj's frequent visit to India.
Customs officers also said that if Bajaj had declared the diamonds, he had to pay a duty of 35 per cent or Rs 42 lakh, as it was part of his baggage. As per rules, one is allowed to bring duty free jewellery worth only Rs 10,000 provided the passenger comes after a minimum period of six months.
Interestingly, Bajaj is caught at a time when in India import of polished diamonds is made duty free. An announcement to this effect was made by Finance Minister P Chidambaram on May 3. However, Customs officials said that to import diamonds, one need (import) licence and Import Export Code number. "Also, the entire amount (Rs 1.2 crore) had to be then accounted for tax purposes," said an officer. Bajaj has relatives in Mumbai.
Bajaj was produced in a local court and was remanded to judicial custody till May 22.