The Customs department busted a saffron smuggling racket by arresting a 45-year-old who was trying to smuggle it from Dubai.
Officials on duty arrested Abu Kunhi at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Saturday and found 7.5 kg saffron of good quality in his possession, the cost of which is said to be around Rs 14 lakh.
"We are verifying its quality after which the exact cost would be known," an official said, requesting anonymity.
"If the saffron turns out to be of superior quality then the cost of the material might go up to Rs 25 lakh," he added.
Kunhi, who was released on bail by a local metropolitan magistrate on Sunday, had concealed the saffron in two cartons. Customs sources said he had made pouches of 25 grams and concealed them in a black colour cloth bag. He concealed the consignment by keeping women’s undergarments and toys above it.
Authorities feel that Kunhi might have smuggled saffron on earlier occasions too as his passport revealed that he had traveled to Dubai 10 times in less than eight months this year.
Kunhi used to run a customs shop at Fort, till five years ago where he sold goods auctioned by the department. However, due to financial loss, he closed his shop and got into smuggling.
Sources added that Kunhi chose Saturday morning to reach Mumbai as officials’ shift changes. "We suspect that on earlier occasions too he chose similar timing," the official added.
However, the department has, in the last few months, become extra cautious during this time, sources said.
Sources said people try to smuggle saffron because of its high cost. "By smuggling it, the saffron remains unaccounted and smugglers don't have to pay octroi, value added tax and income tax," the official said.