Smuggling ring busted, 7kg of gold seized

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 09 April 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The air intelligence unit (AIU) of the customs department has busted a gold smuggling ring in which a cellphone messaging application was used as the means of communication between couriers and receivers. The AIU's operation, which involved a short car chase, culminated in the arrest of four people, including two flight catering-cleaning staff, and a net seizure of nearly 7kg of gold (exactly 6.79kg, worth Rs1.65 crore).

Explaining the modus operandi of the smugglers, additional commissioner (customs) Milind Lanjewar said the main courier would book a flight and hide gold bars in the lining of his seat or stick them with adhesive tape or other means on the seat's underside. Upon reaching the destination, he would disembark after messaging the seat number to a couple of catering staff responsible for cleaning the flight. The two staffers would retrieve the gold, hide it in the cleaning trolley and take it out of the airport through the disposal route, bypassing customs and other checks. One of them would then take the gold in a bag to a receiver, who would be at a specified location near the airport.

On Tuesday, the AIU received a specific input about catering staffers Abdul Shaikh and Siraj Sayed. AIU officers waited for them outside the aircraft they entered. After the two came out, they were searched and found with gold bars. The officers checked their mobile phones and found messages specifying seat numbers in three more incoming flights.

Based on the duo's preliminary confession, an AIU team went to nab receiver Vijay Tamhanekar, who was waiting in a cab outside a five star hotel near the airport. Noticing the approaching vehicle carrying the team, he realised something was wrong and told the cabbie to flee.

Allauddin, the driver of the AIU vehicle, sped up and hit the cab, forcing it to stop. After his arrest, Tamhanekar told the team that another person was involved, who was waiting in the vicinity. This person, Shahabuddin, too was nabbed.

The AIU also recovered the gold from the three incoming flights after their arrival.

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