White-collar flyers sneak in goods for free tickets | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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White-collar flyers sneak in goods for free tickets

Recent arrests at the Mumbai airport show a startling new trend: Smugglers are employing white-collar passengers to sneak in contraband into the city in small quantities in exchange for free tickets and commission.

mumbai Updated: May 29, 2011 02:11 IST
Manish Pachouly

May 20
Customs officials at the Mumbai airport arrest a builder for not declaring gold jewellery, branded watches and dollars totally worth Rs9.5 lakh on his return from Singapore. The same day, they detain a former Mr Universe carrying women's garments worth Rs1.5 lakh on arrival from Thailand.

May 16
Customs authorities detain a general manager of a British shipping firm while he was trying to smuggle foreign currency, more than 20 women's garments and a laptop totally worth Rs6.22 lakh. He had also arrived from Dubai.

May 2
The authorities find a Rolex watch, 10 iphones, 10 mobile phones and two laptops, totally worth Rs8lakh, being carried by a Mumbai-based passenger. The consignment had been packed in aluminum foil so that they are not detected by the screening machine.

April 26
Customs officials seize 45 branded watches worth Rs7lakh from a wheelchair-bound passenger who had arrived from Dubai.

These recent arrests at the Mumbai airport show a startling new trend: Smugglers are employing white-collar passengers to sneak in contraband into the city in small quantities in exchange for free tickets and commission.

The customs authorities found that in most cases the passengers caught smuggling goods through the green channel were carrying undeclared items worth less than Rs10 lakh.

“As the smugglers’ syndicates are seeking the services of white-collar people, they have to convince them that they won't be arrested. And even if they are caught, they would easily get bail as the quantity of contraband seized is less,” said a senior customs official, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

“The actual person behind these smuggling attempts could be using multiple people to get the desired amount of goods smuggled in,” the official added.

Another advantage of smuggling in goods in small quantities, the official said, is that if the passenger is caught, the loss incurred is less.

The department also found that in most cases the goods were not concealed in the baggage. "This could be done so that they could plead innocence claiming that they forgot to declare the goods because they were tired or were unaware of the rules," the official said.

He added that some of the passengers caught claim the goods were gifts or given by a friend abroad to be gifted to someone in India.

Advocate Sujay Kantawala, who often handles customs-related cases, said contraband in small quantities is difficult to detect.

“The chances of getting caught are slim because the officials concentrate on big quantity,” the advocate explained.

And even if even the passenger is caught or detained, he or she prefers to pay the duty, Kantawala added.