1,104 watches dumped on plane to escape customs
Three smugglers bringing in 1,104 high-end watches of foreign make from Hong Kong panicked when they learnt about a trap laid by customs officials at the airport and left them in the plane, but were nabbed when they emerged from the Green Channel.mumbai Updated: Dec 15, 2011 02:33 IST
Three smugglers bringing in 1,104 high-end watches of foreign make from Hong Kong panicked when they learnt about a trap laid by customs officials at the airport and left them in the plane, but were nabbed when they emerged from the Green Channel.
The trio — Menon Mudassir Siddique, Khan Hussain Shamshuddin and Patni Sufyan Hamid — is a gang of professional carriers, with Siddique having made 22 trips to foreign countries in a year, Shamshuddin going abroad 18 times, and Hamid eight.
They had boarded a Kingfisher Airlines flight at 3.30pm on Monday, and landed in Mumbai at 9.30pm with the smuggled goods, which could be worth crores. The police believe that someone on the flight told them about the customs’ watch on them, following which they decided to leave the consignment, packed in six bags, in the luggage holds.
They tried to walk out of the airport unnoticed, and crossed the Green Channel 20 minutes later, where they were confronted by an Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) team headed by deputy commissioner of customs Sameer Wankhede. On being questioned why they had no luggage, the trio confessed to having left the watches in the aircraft. They were taken back to the craft and the smuggled goods were recovered.
The watches are of various high-end brands such as Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Fossil, Montblanc and Hublot. During the 24-hour evaluation that followed, the trio said the instruments are replicas, despite which their net worth has been calculated at Rs86 lakh. Officials say this figure can go up tremendously if the report of the official valuer confirms the watches are original.
Commissioner of customs (airport) PM Saleem said that the officials had kept a watch for these carriers for two days since they flew to Hong Kong on Saturday.
After the valuation, the trio was arrested on Wednesday morning and produced before a magistrate’s court, which released them on bail. While Siddique was asked to deposit Rs1.5 lakh, the other two were granted bail of Rs1 lakh each after they told the police that the the watches had been brought for Siddique, who runs a shop at Heera Panna shopping centre in Haji Ali.
The customs officials are now investigating whether the earlier foreign tips made by them were also for smuggling purposes, and who leaked the information about the customs trap.