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In the year 2014, I was posted in Air Intelligence Unit at Mumbai International Airport as an Intelligence Officer. Since long, a tacit thumb rule to profile and intercept passengers coming by airlines from certain sensitive sectors, was prevailing at airport. I was fascinated by the idea that such practice may also be well known to the organized crime syndicate and they may use the same to their advantage. This intuition forced me to focus on airlines coming from other sectors as well which were not primarily on our intelligence radar.

One such incidence needs recital here- A passenger seemingly a European national, amongst the passengers, arrived by Dubai on an Indigo flight. I decided to stand by the Aerobridge to avoid the intermixing of passenger with other flights. At the first instance of looking at the passenger he seemed a bit evasive. By the looks of it, he seemed to be a business-class passenger with only a single trolley as hand baggage and neatly dressed in fine suit. On the suspicion, I followed him all the way to baggage hall to observe his activities.

My suspicion was also based on the fact that this was a European passenger who was coming via Indigo flight which was a low cost carrier, instead of other carriers, which was quite unusual. In the meanwhile, I also discreetly winked at the Dog Handler to follow the passenger up to the arrival hall. After coming to the Baggage Hall, neither me nor the Dog handler noticed any activity of the passenger based on which we could have proceeded further.

However, the Dog Handler mentioned that the passenger while coming from the Aerobridge turned and looked at me. This shot up my suspicion and I intercepted the passenger at the exit gate of the baggage hall after the passenger cleared himself opting green channel and enquired about his reason to visit India. On perusal of his passport and on enquiries made, he said that he regularly came to India to give lectures in different universities. It seemed that he always followed a circuitous route while coming to Mumbai. The Route always was from Dubai-Mumbai and then to Europe. On enquiry the passenger said that due to the nature of the work of the firm where he worked, he need to travel always on that route. However, on being asked why he did not travel the other way round, he did not have any answer. This was also a reason to doubt his authenticity.

The scanning of the baggage did not show any reason for the baggage to be opened and examined. Thereafter, I requested the passenger to get himself frisked through the metal detector, for which he took off the suit wore by him. When nothing was found on his person, I raised the suit to hand it back to him when I realized it was way more heavy than a normal suit. The examination of the suit resulted in recovery of 3 gold bars of 1 kg each worth Rs. 77.99/- lakhs from the inner pockets of the jacket worn by the passenger. I recorded the confessional statement of the passenger for his past several successful attempts of gold smuggling. The then Commissioner of Customs (Airport) issued an Appreciation Certificate mentioning about the fact that 'first European national’ was arrested in gold smuggling in recent past.

In December 2017, when I was posted in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence me along with my team visited the Courier Cell for examination of packages arrived from sensitive sectors.

There was information of smuggling of gold through Courier at Mumbai. We decided to scan all the packages arrived from sensitive countries such as Dubai, HongKong etc. The team started screening all the packages. Since I had the past experience of screening packages at the Airport, by then I had developed the knack of intercepting baggage on the basis of something adverse noticed in the images shown during the screening. One such package which came from Dubai caught my attention, since the screened image showed something unusual.

I stopped the package and perused the accompanying invoice. The invoice declared the package to contain “Mechanical Values”. It came from Dubai and was to be delivered to on firm in Rajkot. Since both the places were then known to be hotspot of gold smuggling, I started searching about both these firms on the internet. My search did not bear any result and it confirmed my doubt that these are on fly-by-night firms.

The packages were opened and the mechanical valves were found to be casted with wrought iron. When these were lifted, they were unreasonably heavy for their description. This was the third reason of suspicion that valves for some mechanical operations cannot be unreasonably heavy. On carefully opening the valves gold disks of 2.5 kgs each were found so carefully concealed inside the valves. By the looks of it, it seemed that the disks were moulded precisely for them to fit inside the valves. A total of 50 kgs gold disks were recovered. The then Director General /DRI, New Delhi had issued a "Appreciation Certificate for exceptional service rendered leading to excellent performance of DRI during the period the year 2017-18.

In the year 2003 I was posted as Preventive Officer at the departure area at Mumbai Airport. During those times the Airport was functioning at the old premises. the departure area was such that the Customs counter had a vantage point and could overlook Airlines counter as well as the immigration kiosks.

My attention was caught by a person who was not well groomed. By his looks, he seemed to be a menial labour. However, the baggage he was carrying was a brand new one. This caught my attention. On enquiry, it was known that he was travelling to Dubai. I decided to search his baggage. On thorough search of the trolley nothing adverse came out. However, on careful examination it was seen that the screw attached to the handle of the trolley was loose. I immediately opened the loosed screw. To everyone’s surprise, Foreign currencies of various denomination were concealed inside the hollow gap of the handle.

25-01-2023 09:34:48

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