In a rare case, a senior pilot with national carrier Air India drawing a monthly salary of Rs 5.5 lakh was allegedly caught smuggling gold by the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai international airport on Wednesday morning.
He was not arrested as the total value of the gold, brought from Jeddah, was less than Rs 20lakh. According to the AIU, the accused Vijay Pratap, 45, has been flying for the last two decades.
Pratap, employed as a commander with the airlines, had arrived after operating the Jeddah- Mumbai flight. AIU stated that seven gold bars weighing 530 grams worth Rs15.65 lakh were concealed in the checked-in luggage and hand baggage of Pratap. “He was attempting to surreptitiously remove the gold bars. We had scanned the baggage and were waiting to see who was picking it up,” said an officer.
The gold has been seized under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962 and his statement was recorded. “The commander was drawing a hefty salary and had still indulged in the smuggling. We are investigating if he had done similar things in the past,” said the officer, adding that he has admitted possession, carriage, concealment and recovery of the gold bars which were smuggled without paying the customs duty.
AIU sources stated that they have earlier caught many crew members while smuggling gold but this case is among the rarest as a commander was caught. “Pratap stated that he received a parcel at Jeddah. However, they have been taught about the rules which are clear. They are not supposed to accept any parcels or letters,” said the officer. Pratap has not been arrested as the value of the seized gold is less than Rs20 lakh. “As per the provision, he has not been arrested but if it transpires during our investigation that he was involved in such cases in the past as well, we may arrest him,” said the officer.
AIU stated that they have increased vigilance at the airport. “In the light of recent instance of smuggling of crew member of the airlines, a high level surveillance has been kept by airport customs staff on passengers and crew,” said the officer.