270 Gold Bars of 10 tolas each totally weighing 31.493 Kgs. Valued at Rs. 1,37,70,000
2053 US Dollars equivalent to Rs. 85,404/- &
Vessel MV-Rossana-II valued at Rs. 1,70,00,000/-
Total Seizure Value = Rs. 3,08,55,404
In March, 1999 I was posted as an Intelligence Officer at the Air Intelligence Unit of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Sahar, Mumbai. Gold smuggling cases were being detected regularly at airport. However, I was getting inputs that gold was coming in through sea route also. There had been a complete lull in seizures of gold at the Mumbai docks for a long time. In view of inputs received, I revived my informers’ network and put 2/3 of them on job to get the information on smuggling through sea port.
At the cost of diversion of topic, here in short I would like to discuss the world of informers. Its tough job to cultivate and maintain the network of informers. At times, you will have to give time to these informers, listen their personal issues, guide them in their family matters etc. They expect you to help them in their difficult time. This help may be financially, emotionally or taking them out of petty problems using your contacts. Informers should have faith in officer that his name would not be disclosed at any stage and also expect that the information shared by them should be worked out in perfect manner and not be wasted. These informers fetch/gather information for you for money/reward, for settling their scores or just for thrill. They at times will share very vague information which may not be worthy of working on it. They would meet you, give general information about the ongoing smuggling trend at airport or sea port which officer can work out using records, passenger manifests, crew lists, duty rosters, video footages, flight ticket bookings etc. There are instances where officers have worked hard patiently for long on such very vague information and gave result of big seizures of contraband goods. Specific information of the smuggling makes job very easy for the officers. It also happens that officer with his team works on the information which proves to be fake/bogus and demoralises the officer . In smuggling world, few have been murdered just on suspicion of being informers and few have earned reward of crores of rupees.
Coming back to my case, one of these 2/3 informers imparted specific information about smuggling of gold in the Mumbai docks by crew members of the vessel MV Rossana-II. Since, the smuggling was taking place in other jurisdiction, it was tough to enter and effect seizure unless the information is 100% correct and genuine and it was must for me to confirm the authenticity of the overall information with respect to the suspected crew. I took up the matter with my seniors and briefed them about the information and requested for permission to work out the information. My seniors showed faith in me and spoke to their counterparts in Preventive Commissionerate under whom port areas was falling. I also met these senior officers personally and briefed them the nature of information I received, without disclosing the specific information. They granted me permission to work on the intelligence gathered and also extended the help by permitting to take the help of officers of Headquarter Intelligence Unit, whenever required .
I visited the office of the Mumbai Port Trust and retrieved the last departure documents such as port clearance, EGM, crew list, crew declaration etc. of vessel MV Rossanna II . On profiling of the same it was noticed that name given by informer was reflecting in the crew list . Now, it was time to study the procedure/schedule of arriving and birthing of the vessel. I discreetly spent over 15 days in the Docks with my informant working out the relevant details so that everything could be worked out meticulously with precision at the relevant time. Assistance of the Headquarters staff of the Rummaging & Intelligence Wing (R&I) of the Custom House was also sought and Information Report (DRI-I.AIU/INF/1/99) was filed on 6.3.1999.
The expected arrival of the suspected vessel was cancelled on few dates. Therefore, 2 officers were specially posted in RSR Office in Docks to keep in continuous touch with the Control Tower officials of the Mumbai Port Trust about minute to minute arrival schedule of the suspected vessels. On confirmation of the expected date and time of arrival of the suspected vessel MV Rossana-II from Ajman (on 7/8.3.1999) , strategy was reviewed. It was risk to wait for vessel to come to Port as there were chances of handing over/transferring /offloading the gold before vessel touches the port. It was decided to board the Vessel in deep sea only and start rummaging on its way to Port. We proceeded towards the BFL point in our patrolling boat. Sea was very rough and patrolling boat was reaching to the height of 4 to 5 feet on huge sea waves. With the help of coordinates /gps , the vessel MV Rossana II was traced and intercepted at the BFL (Bombay Floating Light . Captain of MV Rossanaa was signalled to stop the vessel immediately. It was boarded by me along with the other officers of R&I Wing with the help of pilot ladder despite the risk of personal safety amidst rough sea and foggy weather. On boarding the vessel, staff was kept on guarding to keep watch on crew. Crew was not allowed to move without permission. Suspected crew was identified and was taken along with us. While the vessel moved towards the port, it was rummaged. Areas where suspected crew was having easy access was thoroughly rummaged by experienced intelligence Officers of customs and 220 gold bars were recovered from the engine room where they were kept concealed under an empty drum near the generator. Suspected crew i.e. Electrical Officer of the vessel, Shri Mohammed Ali owned responsibility for this concealment. Further, skilful interrogation of a cadet Shri Manoj Kumar Solanki and prompt action on the clues , led to the recovery and seizure of another 50 gold bars from the hatch of the vessel.
The crew members, Electrical Officer Shri Mohammed Ali and Cadet Shri Manoj Kumar Solanki admitted their guilt and stated that they had together planned to smuggle 270 gold bars into India for sake of monetary consideration. Both of them were arrested in this case.
The contacts developed by me provided vital and specific information by which I was able to work out in the Mumbai Docks in spite of being posted at the Air Intelligence Unit at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Sahar. My persistence, hard work and inclination for details paid rich dividends and helped me in effecting this unique seizure in which the vessel itself was also seized. I am also thankful to my seniors who put faith in me and permitted to work out my information in the area which was not in my ambit. Officers from Headquarters Intelligence Unit of Preventive Commissionerate also played vital role in conducting whole operation and effecting seizure.
For this extraordinary seizure, I was awarded a letter of Commendation from the Chief Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai vide D.O. F.No. CCC/GST/MISC-34/99 dated 12.3.1999 which was also placed in my service records.