A 17-year-old boy was held on Thursday while smuggling Rs. 72 lakh in Indian currency from Hong Kong to Dubai via Mumbai. The Customs also found 3kg iridium powder, a gold adulterating agent, worth Rs. 60 lakh in his suitcase.
The boy's father, Mohammad Rangrez, 45, a hawala agent from Ahmedabad, was waiting for him in Dubai. He was also arrested when he arrived in Mumbai on hearing that his son had been stopped in Mumbai.
The boy (name withheld as he is a minor) is suspected to be a professional smuggler as he had visited Hong Kong and Dubai 32 times this year, while his father made 30 trips.
What has alarmed the Customs is the availability of such large amount of Indian currency abroad.
Officials said that the boy went to Hong Kong on Tuesday from Mumbai to collect the consignment, and then boarded a Jet Airways flight for Dubai with a stop in Mumbai.
"He reached the Mumbai airport at around 6am on Wednesday and was to fly to Dubai at around 9.30am," a Customs official said.
However, during screening, the airline noticed some powder in his suitcase, and alerted the air intelligence unit (AIU) of the Customs. The airline also refused to let him board the flight.
The boy then came to the immigration counter to leave the airport, but was stopped by an AIU team headed by deputy commissioner of Customs Sameer Wankhede. The Customs found 3kg iridium powder in his suitcase.
On digging further, they found large quantity of tamarind strewn in the bag, which made them suspicious. After taking it out, they found the currency - in Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 notes - neatly packed in plastic.
Rangrez was picked up at around 9pm on Wednesday when he arrived at the airport to look for his son, not knowing he had been held by the Customs.
He told officials that he is into hawala and betting, and that he was to earn Rs. 2.5 lakh to smuggle the cash, and Rs. 6,000 per kg for the iridium.
The duo was arrested on Thursday morning and later released on bail. The Customs will now inform the Enforcement Directorate, which will investigate the hawala angle.