Actor Minissha Lamba was lucky to get away without arrest on Wednesday, as customs authorities did not charge her under the more stringent sections of the Customs Act.
The 26-year-old actor was not charged under section 104 of the act that mandates arrest for passengers carrying goods worth more than Rs5 lakh and walking through the green channel without declaring them.
She has been charged only under sections 77 and 111 (b)(l)(m). While section 77 deals with misdeclaration of baggage, 111 deals with confiscation of goods. These sections, however, don’t warrant arrest.
Lamba, who was returning from the Cannes festival, got into trouble at the Mumbai airport for not declaring jewellery and accessories worth around Rs31 lakh. She had with her nine pieces of diamond jewellery as well as several designer sunglasses and handbags.
Her flight landed around 8.30 am, and she was allowed to go at 12.30am. Officials have seized the jewellery, accessories and her passport. The actor will have to pay a hefty fine for not declaring the jewellery and other accessories. “She could be asked to pay between Rs10 lakh and Rs17 lakh. It will take a month to decide the penalty,” said a customs official, requesting anonymity.
The case has been handed over to the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the customs, which questioned Lamba for three hours on Thursday at its Marol office.
Officials also quizzed a representative of Anmol Jewellers, who substantiated Lamba’s claim that the jewellery was given to her by them to promote them at Cannes.
Officials are now checking her claim that the designer handbags and sunglasses were given by sponsors. If the actor cannot prove it, she will have to pay both penalty and duty.
Officials said two of the five sunglasses (a Gucci and a Ray Ban) are new. “The other three have scratch marks that prove they are old,” the official said.
Mahendra Pal, additional commissioner of customs, AIU, confirmed that Lamba and the jewellery firm representative were interrogated.