A Tanzanian woman flyer was taken into custody early on Wednesday with 74kg of psychedelic drug methaqualone valued at Rs 7.4 crore, the biggest narcotics seizure at the country’s busiest airport in Mumbai.
Officers of the customs department’s Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) caught Chambo Fatma Basil, holding a Tanzanian passport and flying to Dar-es-Salaam via Doha, on the basis of a tip-off and passenger profiling.
“The accused was intercepted around 1am. A sniffer dog was pressed into service to inspect her check-in luggage and it gave a positive signal,” said Milind Lanjewar, additional commissioner of airport Customs. He said this was biggest haul of drugs in recent times.
Her three check-in bags were stashed with packets of a white crystalline powder and further investigation revealed the fine dust to be methaqualone or Mandrax, a sedative-hypnotic which is used as a cheaper substitute for cocaine.
Basil was immediately arrested under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
“The accused told us that her cousin, based in Mumbai, had given her the packets and she wasn’t aware these were drugs.
She was supposed to hand over the packets to the cousin’s wife at Dar-es-Salaam,” Lanjewar said.
The Tanzanian’s arrest follows a 37-year-old Zimbabwean woman’s capture at the airport on May 18 when she was trying to smuggle out nearly 13kg of drugs worth Rs 1.29 crore in the grey market.
On both occasions, airport security’s dedicated canine unit of eight dogs played exemplary roles in thwarting the smuggling attempts.