Hyderabad: On March 25 last year, DRI sleuths, who had reports about a possible smuggling attempt from Dubai, searched an aircraft that returned from UAE at the RGI Airport, after all the passengers had disembarked.
DRI teams searched passengers selectively at the airport exit a few minutes ago and none was found carrying dutiable goods. During the search inside the aircraft, DRI found three kg of gold biscuits concealed under a seat. DRI officials suspect the smuggler must have got down at Bengaluru, where the flight had landed before coming to Hyderabad.
DRI officials believe someone carried the gold to be handed over to a receiver waiting outside the airport. It could not be identified as to who this carrier was. Officials’ suspicion centered on some airport staff.
The suspicion proved right. Two months later, on May 27, DRI officials arrested two GMR Hyderabad International Airport security wing workers, K. Bhaskar Reddy and P. Rami Naidu, while they were carrying eight kg of gold biscuits worth Rs 2.5 crore.
The duo had taken the gold out of an aircraft, where the gold was hidden by the smuggler, and moved to the parking lot of the airport. It turned out that they had struck a deal with the smuggler to get the gold out of the airport for a commission.
With intelligence and enforcement agencies subjecting suspicious passengers to intensive, even elbow-deep body cavity searches, smugglers are now turning to airline and airport staff to get the gold past the aircraft and into the hands of receivers.
This year, ground handling staff at the RGI Airport tried to smuggle gold worth Rs 2.5 crore. They were arrested by DRI sleuths at the airport parking lot and on road. Airport staffers have access to aircraft for various jobs like cleaning, and some of them use this opportunity to help smuggling gangs to take things out, by evading the eyes of the enforcement agencies.
“Members of the staff who indulge in smuggling know the ins and outs of the airport. They know the number of customs or DRI officials at the checking points and the timing. Usually, when flights are not in operational mode, the number of customs officials at the airport is less and there would be no frisking.
Employees walk out with the gold during these hours. Unless there is a specific intelligence input, it's difficult to catch them because employees are usually not frisked when they come out of the airport,” a senior customs official said.