Helping smuggler escape, airport officials land in Custom dept net

Two airport duty managers, man held for trying to smuggle 10,000 memory cards worth `20 lakh into city.

mumbai Updated: Mar 14, 2012 00:42 IST
Manish Pachouly
Manish Pachouly
Hindustan Times

Exposing the loophole in the security system at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs on Tuesday arrested two airport employees for allegedly helping a passenger smuggle 10,000 memory cards.

Customs officials said two airport duty managers — Mahesh Bamane, 35, and Rakshit Kapoor, 24 — were allegedly involved in a smuggling racket.

On Monday night, Customs officials had laid a trap at terminal 2B to catch a smuggler, Mohammed Sayyed Hanif, 30.

Hanif had arrived from Hong Kong by Thai Airways flight TG 317 at 10pm. Bamane, who was aware of the trap, quickly took Hanif to the other terminal so he could escape undetected.

However, an AIU team, headed by deputy commissioner of Customs Sameer Wankhede, caught Hanif.

According to officials, Hanif had deliberately travelled by Thai Airways flight as it was from Hong Kong via Bangkok. “Generally, we keep a watch on flights coming directly from Hong Kong. He chose this flight in an attempt to move out safely,” said a Customs official, on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

As soon as the flight landed, Bamane went to the gate of the plane and escorted Hanif to terminal 2C, while the other passengers headed towards 2B. “As he is an airport employee, nobody suspected anything when Bamane left Hanif at the other terminal,” the official said.

However, Hanif was caught while he was crossing the green channel. On checking his bag, officials found 10,000 2GB memory cards worth Rs20 lakh. The cards were hidden in pouches.

During questioning it was found that Hanif had travelled abroad 30 times in three years. He then revealed Bamane’s role in Monday’s incident.

Once he was picked up, Bamane said he was promised Rs10,000 commission for helping Hanif escape. He also named Kapoor as part of the racket.

The AIU found that Kapoor had helped a smuggler clear an consignment on February 6.

“One of the modus operandi used included the carrier dropping the pouches in a dustbin. The duty managers would then collect them when the garbage was taken out of the airport premises,” the official said.

Advocate Ravi Hirani, who represented the three before the Customs authorities, said Hanif had been released on bail of Rs1 lakh while the two duty managers were given bail of Rs50,000 each.

PM Saleem, commissioner of Customs, airport, confirmed that the three were arrested and released on bail.

A spokesperson for MIAL said, “As soon as this incident came to light, we terminated them [the two duty managers] with immediate effect.”

First Published: Mar 14, 2012 00:42 IST