In January, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs had to take a tough call on whether to break open a passenger’s car-washer based on only their intuition. They decided to compensate the passenger if they found nothing. However, their efforts were vindicated as they recovered gold worth Rs61 lakh concealed in the central part of the machine.
Since the beginning of this year, the authorities have been kept bus. Smugglers have resorted to hiring carriers to conceal gold in televisions, vacuum cleaners, mixer-grinders, pressure cookers and inner metal frames of trolley bags. Authorities have termed this ‘deep concealment’ and said the technique had been detected at airports across the country.
Investigations revealed that Dubai-based smugglers lure carriers with the promise of easy money. “The youth are attracted by the prospect of easy money and the lack of physical labour this activity involves. They fail to realise that this is a trap,” said Pradnyasheel Jumle, deputy commissioner of customs, AIU.
He said offenders will face a jail term ranging from two to seven years. “They should realise that they are throwing away their careers,” said the officer.
AIU said the smugglers take advantage of those who need money urgently. “In one case, a 28-year-old who had gone to Dubai seeking employment wanted to return to India as he was short of funds. Smugglers told him that they would give him only a small quantity of gold to conceal and carry. However, they gave him more than 2kg gold. We caught him at the Mumbai airport. Investigations revealed that he was to be paid Rs10, 000 for his efforts,” said an officer.
Dubai-based smugglers often victimise those they hire as carriers, said officials.
Sources said they intercepted a woman passenger and inspected her phone. She had recorded conversations with another woman carrier, in which she was complaining that carriers are made to do a large amount of work for a small sum. “We need a lot of time to crack open the appliances of suspected passengers. The large volume of passengers at the Mumbai International Airport makes our task difficult,” said the officer.