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Mandrax cartons almost take off for S Africa

Seven cartons with 250 kg mandrax worth Rs 5 crore in int'l market were almost loaded on a flight. Manish Pachouly reports.
By Manish Pachouly | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 02:44 AM IST

In a major security breach, seven cartons with 250 kg mandrax worth Rs 5 crore in international market were almost loaded on a flight, to be sent to Johannesburg, without any documentation.

The seizure was made at the Air Cargo Complex at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence on Saturday. The cartons were kept in the pallet, the last process before a consignment is loaded onto a flight.

Smugglers misdeclare goods to avoid detection, but in this case no paper work was done, which has baffled the DRI and that led to an investigation on how it reached a secured area like the Air Cargo Complex.

Customs officials said before exporting a consignment, the exporter has to get a shipping document and procure a gate pass from Customs. After this the consignment goes to the export shed (in the Air Cargo Complex) where a part of it is examined manually by Customs. It then goes to the airlines handler who screens the consignment and sends to its (the airline’s) warehouse.

At the warehouse, the consignment is placed in pallets and then loaded. The DRI got information on Saturday that an attempt would be made to smuggle mandrax to Johannesburg. After raiding, the authorities found the mandrax was to be loaded in a South African Airways flight that was to leave early on Sunday. The airline handler for South African Airways was Air India.

The DRI authorities found seven containers, each carrying about 36 kg of mandrax. Officials said to avoid detection by the dog squad, the smugglers had sprayed chilli powder on the cartons. They had also put incense sticks.

An inquiry on how the consignment reached so far without any documentation has started. Baffled DRI and Customs authorities believe that such a flaw could pose security threat.

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