The three men detained at the city airport last week for trying to smuggle wildlife were hoping to cash in on the high demand their cargo has in Mumbai.
Faizan Khan, who was caught trying to smuggle turtles in his underwear, told police he paid between Rs5,000 and Rs10,000 per pair for the rare turtles. Some of these were star turtles, which are most sought after as pets. “These turtles could be sold for anything from Rs25,000 to Rs50,000 per pair,” a customs official said. Officials added that Khan has a shop in Musafir Khana where he sells rare wildlife.
Khan’s accomplice Sheikh Naushad Musa planned to sell each of the six Persian cats he was smuggling for Rs50,000. He purchased them in Bangkok for approximately Rs20,000 each. Sources said Musa has a farm in Pune, from where he trades rare species.
Khan, Musa and Sheikh Nadir Ahmed, all Indian nationals, were held at the airport last week trying to smuggle 10 turtles, six Persian cats, three tarantulas, 11 eggs of unknown bird species, and pigeon and fish food. Customs officials found that Ahmed was paid Rs10,000 and was given free tickets by Musa for his help in smuggling the animals. Officials also discovered that Musa and Khan had travelled to Bangkok thrice this year. They are probing if the trips were for a similar purpose.