Mumbai: Part of bracelet seized by Customs at airport goes missing

A whistle-blower of the Mumbai Airport Customs complained of rampant corruption and pilferage of seized contraband by the elite Air Intelligence Unit; he cited case that happened on August 5 wherein part of gold seized from a passenger was missing.

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Thursday, December 22, 2022, 11:27 AM IST
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport | Photo: Representative Image

Mumbai: A whistle-blower of the Mumbai Airport Customs has complained to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Chief Vigilance Office of rampant corruption and pilferage of seized contraband by the elite Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Mumbai Customs posted at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj international airport.

The thefts in high security restricted customs zone has caused major embarrassment in the airport customs.

In the complaint letter, whistle-blower has mentioned a case of smuggled gold seizure concealed in laptop, speakers and wristwatch on 5 August 2022 detected in a Baggage Screening Xray Machine (BSM) and consequent search by AIU officials leading to the arrest of a passenger arriving from Dubai.

The screen recording of the BSM showed a gold biscuit, two half gold biscuits and a gold bangle in xray but the consequent panchnama reported 2085 gms of gold biscuit, two half gold biscuits and half bangle valued at over Rs 94 lakhs.

“The BSM screen clearly shows a gold biscuit, two half gold biscuits, and a bangle but the seizure shows only half bangle which proves the gold was pilfered by the AIU officials for personal gains,” alleged the whistle-blower providing pictures of the BSM screen with the suspect contraband the subsequent seizure photographs for evidence.

The seizure report, a copy of which is available with the Free Press Journal, prepared by the AIU D-Batch officers mentions 24karat 1 kg gold bar, 2 pieces of 24 karat gold cut pieces, and half gold bangle of 24 karat valued at Rs 94,53,651 from passenger Kaushik Kumar Balar arriving on Air India flight AI 0984 from Dubai. The seizure report contains pictures of the seized contraband gold on a weighing machine with half gold bangle.

“It is shame that contraband is pilfered brazenly by officials,” admitted a senior customs official at the Mumbai airport refusing to be identified. The passenger Kaushik Kumar Balar refused to comment on the controversy over the gold seizure and the missing gold piece.

The letter caused panic in the customs department and an outside expert gold valuer Manish Kumar Kalyanji was called twice to get valuation of the broken gold bangle. “The seized gold was disposed of in auction in haste against regular norms of keeping in customs vault for safe keeping pending court trial,” alleged the whistle-blower.

The whistle-blower has complained regular pilferage and thefts of contraband seizures including mobiles, gold and even narcotics by customs officials posted in the sensitive AIU.

Aiport customs commissioner Rajesh Sanan said the complaint by the whistleblower will be investigated while another senior officer refusing to be named said “We will verify the authenticity of the complaint and take appropriate action.”

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