Mumbai: The Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch (SIIB) of Mumbai Customs at the Air Cargo Complex has arrested a Bollywood stunt woman for importing restricted goods – three consignments of 78,000 blank cartridges - without possessing a licence for arms and ammunition for theatrical, film or television production. The blank ammunition consignment was deliberately declared as ‘dummy air pellets’ to circumvent the import policy restriction on blank cartridges.
Firoza Khatun of M/s Firoza Movie International Enterprise was arrested, along with Customs clearing agents Shailesh Kathe and Mahendra Ruparel, by the Customs Zone – III officers and produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Esplanade Court. The trio was remanded in 15 days’ judicial custody, until June 7, by the court.
The three consignments of 78,000 blank cartridges were imported in the pandemic lockdown - September to November 2021 – when there was laxity in the checking of imported goods at Customs cargo, with most officers having been detected Covid-positive. The goods were declared as ‘Blank Cartridge 9mm Kaiser’ (dummy air pellets) to subvert the Arms Rule for dummy weapons and blank ammunition requirement of a licence for arms and ammunition for theatrical, film or television production. However, Firoza Khatun did not have a valid document for the import of blank cartridges.
Customs officers examined the imported goods and representative samples of the goods were drawn for testing purposes sent to the Central Forensics Science Laboratory (CFSL), Hyderabad.
The CFSL opined that “when a blank cartridge is fired, high-pressure gas is discharged from the case and progresses down the barrel. The effect of the super-heated high-pressure gas, as well as unburnt particles of propellant can cause fatal injuries and can be dangerous to human life. Thus, the goods are dangerous in nature and can cause fatal injuries to human life.”
Alarmed, customs officers summoned Khatun and recorded her statement in March 2022, when she admitted to importing blank cartridges for ad films and movie shooting without a valid licence. She alleged that the declaration ‘Air Pellet Guns Dummy’ was added in the description of the goods by Customs Broker without seeking her approval.
“She has failed to explain how the previous import of blank cartridges has been utilized. No document related to the import of ‘Blank Cartridges’ was found at her office or warehouse,” said a senior Customs officer supervising the investigation.
Customs clearing agent Mahendra Ruparel accepted importing the consignment on behalf of M/s Firoza Movie International Enterprise and said that he was aware that the goods were blank cartridges.
There was a requirement of licence as per the Arms Rule but at the request of the importer Firoza Khatun, the consignment was declared as ‘Air Pellet Guns Dummy’. Customs agent Shailesh Kathe said in his statement that the blank cartridges were cleared by them (himself and Mahendra Ruparel) on behalf of the importer, Firoza Khatun.
“All three accused are giving evasive statements about the use of 78,000 blank cartridges, which are very dangerous if in wrong hands. Their dubious and illegal conduct and indulgence in the illegal activity needs further investigation, along with financial investigation to determine the ultimate beneficiary,” read the customs remand application submitted before the chief metropolitan magistrate, in which the trio were sought to be remanded for custodial interrogation.