Hyderabad: The recent arrest of two customs officials at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) may have exposed a smuggler-official nexus and a serious security breach, with investigators finding evidence that the officers had smuggled hundreds of foreign liquor bottles out of the airport.
Sources say, however, that this is just the tip of an iceberg. Corrupt customs officials at RGIA are alleged to have helped even gold smugglers on a regular basis. The officials would conceal gold in their uniforms or carry luggage containing contraband gold for a handsome commission.
Two other officials had managed to hoodwink their superiors and CISF officials for over four months, sources said. In a sign of how organised the racket was, the sources said there were ‘pick up points’ inside the airport – like washrooms just before the green channel -- where smugglers kept the gold for corrupt officials to pick up and carry it out of the airport.
“It cannot be denied that some black sheep in the department had helped gold smugglers. They had taken advantage of their privilege of easy movement inside the airport and helped carry dutiable goods out of it,” said a customs department source.
A former customs official said friends and relatives of officials also often get ‘help’, but “that’s not an organised racket.”
Senior customs officials denied the allegations, however, and said that all their officers are under watch and there is no chance of them helping smugglers.
These officials said that the phones of all their staff are tapped, and surpassing the vigil is not easy. “Whenever there is an alert about a smuggler, all officials are on the look-out for him, covering the entire airport. No officer would dare help that smuggler,” said one senior official. But sources said that corrupt officials do manage to help smugglers about whom no alerts have been received.
“When an officer is caught redhanded, usually the department suspends him for six months and refers the case to Central Vigilance Commission,” the source said. But these cases do not come to light because the departmental inquiry and vigilance probe are covertly done....