The decision to deploy escorts in flights by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has started to yield results in the fight to bust gold smuggling rackets at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Shamshabad.
In addition to the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) at RGIA, the escort teams were deployed in flights to keep a tab on passengers arriving from Dubai and observe their movements surreptitiously, officials said.
“If anyone was found to be exchanging bags or hiding articles beneath the seat, escorts will alert their superiors who will detain the flyer after landing at the airport,” a customs official said. The escorts, which were mainly focusing on flyers travelling in domestic flights, have succeeded in recovering gold concealed beneath the seats in at least half a dozen cases since 2018, officials said. At a recently convened press conference here, Customs Commissioner MRR Reddy said that escorts inside the flight would constantly keep vigil on flyers to trace gold smugglers.
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Flight escorts previous records
Last year, the AIU officers intercepted a passenger, who arrived from Dubai, at the exit gate and checked his baggage and body with metal detectors but no contraband was found. They checked the passenger’s credentials in his passport and found that he was a native of Uttar Pradesh and also a frequent traveller from Gulf countries to different parts of India.
Based on his travel activities, the officers got a suspicion that the passenger might be involved in illegal activities and started enquiring about his purpose of visits from Gulf countries to Hyderabad and to other airports of the country. On persistent questioning, the passenger confessed that he had concealed gold bars under a seat in the aircraft. The officers then took the passenger to the aircraft and searched the specific seat mentioned by him only to find two packets containing gold bars and pieces weighing 1.224 kg.
Upon interrogation, the flyer said the gold did not belong to him but was given to him by a smuggler in Dubai. He was instructed to carry it to Hyderabad and conceal it under the specific seat in the aircraft.
From Hyderabad, another person would board the flight and take the gold to Delhi via Visakhapatnam. This was done to hoodwink customs officials and avoid detection and payment of customs duty at the airport. Smugglers offered Rs 50, 000 as a commission for carrying the gold till Hyderabad. Two months ago, two kilos of gold that was kept beneath the seat in an Air India flight was also seized, according to officials.