Customs authorities ordered an inquiry on Wednesday into the 12-hour delay in clearing the weapons of a 16-member Indian shooting team that landed at the Delhi airport after competition in Europe a day earlier, but said officials were extra vigilant after a case of arms smuggling involving a prominent shooter was recently unearthed.
“A case of illegal importation of firearms by some sportspersons misusing the scheme of import of firearms by renowned shooters through IGI Airport was booked by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in the last week of April, 2017. Considering the grave security implications of such violations, scrutiny for customs clearance of arms and ammunition imported at IGI Airport has since been intensified,” Sanjay Mangal, Commissioner of Customs in charge of the airport, said on Wednesday.
“The customs clearance of arms and ammunition through baggage is now being done after thorough verification of facts or documents with the relevant authorities or investigating agency,” Mangal said.
The shooting contingent, which won 15 medals at the Grand Prix of Liberation championships in the Czech Republic, arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport early on Tuesday.
Their weapons were eventually cleared by the customs only around 4pm. India’s lone individual Olympic champion, Abhinav Bindra, was among those who criticised the customs delay.
The Commissioner of Customs said: “In view of the time required for intensified verification, they were given the option by customs officers of getting their weapons deposited in the warehouse for their subsequent clearance after due verification. While five of them agreed, others opted to wait at the airport... During this time, due courtesies were extended to the sportspersons by the customs officers and they were also offered refreshments.
“The department regrets any inconvenience caused to the sportspersons… An enquiry is being initiated to ascertain whether there was an undue delay in customs clearance in this case. Steps are being taken to streamline the process of customs clearance of arms and ammunition imported through baggage,” Mangal added.
Early this month, police registered a case in an arms and hunting racket that was allegedly being run from the Meerut residence of national-level shooter, Prashant Bishnoi. The DRI arrested some others, including a Slovenian citizen. They are suspected to be linked to the racket.