Cracking the whip on irregularities and rampant corruption at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, the Central Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Customs suspended three Customs officials on Wednesday afternoon.
Last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation had busted a digital payments racket of Customs officials at the airport and arrested Superintendent Kumar Alok. The digital extortion racket involved Customs officials accosting unsuspecting passengers and threatening them to book in smuggling cases if they didn't bribe them for bringing gold and electronic items.
Interestingly, they sought monetary favour even when the quantity of items was well within the prescribed limits. To avoid detection, they asked the targets to make digital transfers into Gpay accounts of airport loaders.
In the latest case, Customs Superintendent Nitish Kumar, Customs Preventive Officer Devesh Kumar Pandey and Customs Havildar GG Phalebhai were issued suspension orders after the Mumbai Airport Customs Commissioner submitted a preliminary report to the CIU for their involvement in alleged extortion at the international passenger arrival hall last month.
Officers threatened international flyer for bringing iPhone
An international passenger had filed an online complaint to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs members about harassment and extortion by Kumar and Pandey who allegedly threatened to book the flyer in a smuggling case.
“The passenger had brought an iPhone for personal use, which is permissible under the Customs rule but the officers threatened to arrest him. The passenger was asked to go in the washroom with a Customs havildar and pay an agreed amount to avoid action,” explained senior IRS officer privy to the investigation.
Airport Customs Commissioner began enquiries on the passenger's complaint and examined the CCTV footage of the incident. “Prima facie, the passenger's complaints were found to be true. CCTV corroborated that the traveller was taken to the washroom near the baggage hall, while being accompanied by a havildar,” confirmed another IRS officer posted at the Mumbai airport.
Corruption rampant in Mumbai Customs
Senior customs officials have questioned the probationary posting of Pandey at the sensitive airport duty which involves direct dealing with international passengers. “Airport Customs has standing orders that no one below five years of service can be posted directly to attend passengers arriving from abroad. The rule was contravened to post probationary officers. As per rules of suspension, the officers will just face a departmental enquiry,” said the Customs officer.
Mumbai Airport Customs has been hit by series of irregularities and corruption by the men in white. A whistleblower had in December 2022 complained to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman about pilferage of seized contraband by Customs officials.
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