A digital extortion racket of customs officials at the Mumbai International Airport was busted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with the arrest of Customs Superintendent Kumar Alok on Saturday night after exhaustive investigation and collecting evidences against the rampant corruption at the airport by the men in white.
The digital extortion racket invovlved customs officials posted at the Mumbai airport international terminal accosting unsuspecting passengers and threatening to book them in smuggling cases for bringing gold and electronic items allowed within prescribed limits and demanding a bribe to "settle" the case by accepting payments on Gpay and mobile banking wallets of airport loaders on duty at the baggage belt.
How Customs Officials got caught
CBI was investigating the complaint of passengers Zubin Mehta and Dhaval Chedda who had landed in Mumbai from Dubai on 19 November 2022 with a gold chain worth ₹1.5 lakh for personal use. Both the passengers were detained for over 90 minutes by Customs Superintendent Kumar Alok and threatened of criminal case of smuggling and arrests. The customs officers theatened both passengers to transfer ₹17000 and ₹13000 to Gpay accounts linked to mobile numbers of airport loaders Sanjay Joshi and Prakash Ambede.
“Customs officials threatened and coerced loaders on duty at the passenger arrival hall to share their Gpay and mobile banking details to collect bribe and extortion amount from passengers. The digital money trial leads to top IRS officials at the airport customs who were actively conniving with postings of their own officers to run the extortion racket,” explained the CBI official investigating the case.
CBI recorded the statement of airport loader Sanjay Joshi whose Gpay account had received over ₹17 lakhs from international travellers and which were later transferred to the accounts of arrested customs superintendent Kumar Alok.
How the racket worked
The amount transferred into Kumar Alok accounts were further used to make hotel and flight bookings of senior IRS officials posted at the airport and their family members, the CBI probed revealed. The CBI team raiding the residence of baggage loader Sanjay Joshi were shocked at the audacity of airport customs hawaldar Desai call to the accused to confirm extortion amount of ₹17,000 received on Gpay for customs officer Mann posted at the airport.
Mumbai Airport Chief Commissioner Roopam Kapoor did not respond to calls and messages for comments on the involvement of customs officials at the airport in organised extortion racket and failure to monitor the illegal activities at the airport.
Rampant corruption among men in white
“No vigilance is kept on the officals posted at the Mumbai Airport passenger terminal. Selected few customs officers are posted in the lucrative Air Intelligence Unit and Protocol batch by the senior IRS officers to run an organised syndicate of digital extortion payments,” alleged a customs officer requesting anonymity fearing reprisal from the customs commissioner.
Even the Central Intelligence Unit incharge of checking customs officers at the airport has not taken any action on the rampant corruption amongst the men in white. Central Intelligence Unit commissioner Ranjit Kumar resfused to answer calls and messages on detailed queries about complaints of corruption and extortion by customs officials at the airport.
The CBI remand application to the special CBI court states that many senior customs officers are involved in the extortion racket at the Mumbai international airport.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)