Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday night arrested a Customs Superintendent at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Mumbai International Airport for running a digital extortion racket wherein unsuspecting, innocent passengers are threatened with false smuggling cases and forced to pay bribe into digital accounts of on duty airport loaders at baggage belts.
The bribe money is allegedly used to pay for foreign trips of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officials and their families, the CBI said.
Rampant corruption at the airport
Officials said Customs Superintendent Kumar Alok was arrested after exhaustive investigation and collecting evidence against rampant corruption at the airport. The probe was launched after a complaint from Zubin Mehta and Dhaval Chheda, who landed in Mumbai from Dubai on Nov 19, 2022, with a gold chain worth ₹1.5 lakh for personal use.
Mehta and Chheda were detained for 90 minutes by Alok and threatened with a criminal case for smuggling. He forced the two passengers to pay ₹17,000 and ₹13,000 into Gpay accounts linked to mobile numbers of airport loaders Sanjay Jishi and Prakash Ambede.
Over ₹17 lakh into Gpay account
The CBI recorded the statement of Joshi whose Gpay account received over ₹17 lakh from international travellers, only to be transferred to Alok’s accounts. The money was later used to make hotel and flight bookings of senior IRS officials posted at the airport and their family members, the CBI probe revealed.
When the CBI was raiding Joshi’s residence, an airport customs hawaldar called to confirm the extortion amount of ₹17,000 received on Gpay for a customs officer posted at the airport.
Mumbai Airport Chief Commissioner Roopam Kapoor and Central Intelligence Unit commissioner Ranjit Kumar refused to answer calls and messages on detailed queries about the complaints of corruption and extortion.
Others too involved in the racket
Fearing reprisal from the customs commissioner, a customs officer said on condition of anonymity, “No vigilance is kept on officials posted at the airport. A selected few officers are posted in the lucrative Air Intelligence Unit and the Protocol batch by senior IRS officers to run an organised syndicate of digital extortion.”
The CBI remand application to the special CBI court states that many senior customs officers are involved in the racket.