A major gold smuggling racket was busted at the Mumbai airport in the wee hours of Wednesday, after the apprehending of two flight catering staff led to the seizure of 6.75kg of gold from four aircrafts, and the Customs caught a key accused after a dramatic chase.
The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs received a tip-off about the activities of two people, Abdul Razak Shaikh and Siraj Mohammed Sayed. The duo works for a firm that supplies food to flights, and their interrogation revealed flights with gold concealed inside would soon be landing in Mumbai, Customs officers said.
Their phones were checked, and through their chats and SMSes, Customs discovered the flights and the seats underneath which the gold would be hidden.
The first flight from Dubai landed at 2.15am, and seven gold bars weighing 816 grams valued at Rs19.18 lakh were recovered. The second flight from Abu Dhabi landed at 2.40am, with 12 gold bars weighing 1,405 grams and valued at Rs 34.85 lakh.
The third flight from Kuwait landed at 3.05am, with Customs seizing 11 gold bars weighing 1,280 grams, valued at Rs 31.1 lakh. The last fight came from Muscat at 4.25am, disgorging four bars weighing 3,283 grams valued at Rs 78.83 lakh. The total seizure amounts to Rs 1.65 crore, officers said.
Further questioning of Shaikh and Sayed revealed two men were supposed to collect the gold outside the airport. “Our officers were waiting for the people who would receive the gold. The accused, Vijay Tamhanekar, got wind of our presence, and his taxi driver started speeding away,” said a Customs officer.
A senior Customs officer then followed him. “After a chase of around 1km, I asked my driver to dash into his taxi from one side. Tamhanekar was trapped and we managed to arrest him near Hotel Hyatt in Sahar,” said the officer, requesting anonymity.
Tamhanekar has similar cases registered against him with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Customs, said officers. Based on the catering supervisors’ information, another accused, Shahabuddin CA, was caught in Andheri (East).
“The questioning of the duo revealed they were involved in smuggling on at least 30 occasions. We then conducted a search at Siraj’s residence at Jari Mari in Kurla and seized Rs 5.8 lakh in cash,” said the officer.