Mumbai: You never know what you might find inside the garbage cans at Mumbai airport. Now before you start planning to get your hands dirty, let's clarify here that the matter pertains to the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai customs busting a smuggling racket involving some employees at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).
The smuggler would drop their consignment inside a designated garbage box placed near the international terminal arrivals section. All the airport workers had to do was clear the 'waste' and collect a handsome reward for a job well done.
With a tip-off about airport employees helping smugglers, the AIU team, led by its deputy commissioner, Sameer Wankhede, arranged a trap on Monday night to catch the culprits red-handed.
The team was tracking every movement of Saiyed Mohammed Hanif, an alleged smuggler, who landed via Thai Airways flight TG 317 Bangkok-Mumbai at around 10:30 pm on March 12.
"We started following him once he entered the terminal and he was apprehended while placing the consignment inside the dumpster.
In the next few minutes we apprehended a duty manager of CSIA who was present inside the terminal to aid Hanif. In due course of investigation, another CSIA employee's name also came to light and he was caught on Tuesday morning," said a customs official on condition of anonymity.
The arrested CSIA employees Rakshit Kapur and Mahesh Bamne are both duty managers and have reportedly confessed to their crime in statements to AIU.
"During interrogation they revealed how the litter box was used as a drop box for the consignment and the same was cleared on priority by them.
We have booked all three under different provisions of Indian Customs Act, including sections pertaining to confiscation of illegal import of goods. We have also informed CSIA authorities about the role of their two employees.
It seems likely that this wasn't the only instance of their involvement. We'll also try to find out if other airport workers are connected," the official added.
When contacted, PM Saleem, Commissioner of Customs, CSIA, said, "We have arrested them and investigation is in progress."
Both the CSIA employees have been sacked. "The matter was brought to our notice by the customs. The two workers were immediately dismissed from their jobs," said Vaibhav Tiwari, spokesperson, CSIA.
This was not the first time that an airport insider has been found to be hand in glove with smugglers. On December 30, 2011 MiD DAY had reported (Nabbed smugglers spill the beans on customs employee) how a driver employed with Customs helped smugglers clear their consignments.
"The smugglers after landing from Hong Kong, called a driver employed with the Mumbai Airport Customs, to help them clear the consignment from the airport's premises," said a source from Mumbai Airport Customs.
The smugglers later confessed that the driver was their main source of information and a security clearance agent at the airport.
"Revealing their modus operandi, the smugglers stated that after landing at the airport, they would rush to the urinal to stash their consignments.
Later, the driver would take the consignment out, clearing all the security points without raising suspicion," added the source.