The lure of a free ticket from Dubai to Mumbai proved costly for Mohammed Iqbal, 24, who worked as a salesman in Dubai for eight months.
Customs authorities arrested Iqbal as he reached Mumbai on Saturday morning because the parcel, given to him by the person who booked his ticket, contained 5.5 kg of saffron that was being smuggled in.
Iqbal was returning to Mumbai because his visa was cancelled. He claimed that a person, whose name has been withheld by authorities for investigation, approached Iqbal and offered him a free ticket to Mumbai.
“The only condition was that Iqbal take two cartons of ‘food items’ and deliver them to someone in Dongri,” a senior Customs officer said, requesting anonymity.
Iqbal was also offered Rs 500 as taxi fare to travel to Dongri from the Mumbai airport. Iqbal agreed because he was unemployed after his visa got cancelled.
On reaching the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Saturday morning on an Air India flight, Iqbal walked through the green channel thinking he did not have anything to declare.
But, a Customs team, headed by deputy commissioner Sameer Wankhede, suspected that the cartons could contain something suspicious and stopped Iqbal.
On checking the cartons, the team found saffron packets wrapped in such a way that they looked like cloth, and concealed under some food items.
On examination, authorities found it was high-quality Persian saffron that costs Rs 1 lakh a kilo. On questioning, they learnt that Iqbal was not a regular carrier and it was for the first time he had carried such material.
“The smugglers seem to have gone back to their old modus operandi where gullible passengers are lured to deliver parcels without knowing that contained smuggling material,” the officer added.