Hyderabad: Airport staff involved in smuggling gold out of incoming aircraft belong either to GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd or are outsourced employees deployed by private companies. Two employees of Menzies Bobba Ground Handling Services and two others of GHIAL have been arrested for smuggling gold.
The employees smuggled gold out via the special staff exit point. Sometimes the gold is collected from the aircraft directly, or from the hands of the smuggler at the aerobridge or in the washrooms before the immigration and customs checks. Sources say a majority of the ground handling staff is paid a meagre salary. They are easily lured by the handsome rewards that the smugglers offer.
“The employee we arrested last Thursday with 3 kg gold was paid less than Rs15,000 per month. The smuggler offered him about Rs 40,000 per kilo of gold,” said a DRI official, who was part of the operation.
As part of the contract, a staffer has to get the gold past the customs officials and take it to the parking lot. It takes 10 minutes, and the staffer can earn lakhs of rupees depending on the quantity of the gold.
At RGI Airport, various private companies outsource ground handling staff. Each airline picks a different private firm. The staff members are deployed to guide and assist passengers, crew handling, baggage service and flight facilitation. All these jobs give them access to the entire airport and the aircraft.
“The ground staff is supervised by two duty managers; one from the employer’s firm and one from the airline. When these two managers fail to keep a watch on the employees, it’s easy for them to help the smugglers,” said a DRI official.
DRI sleuths had prior information
The April 28 bust of three kg gold was the result of some deft work by DRI sleuths.
They got information that some gold was being smuggled from Dubai on an Emirates flight. They suspected that the smuggler could take the help of a member of the ground handling staff to get the gold past Customs.
Based on a tip off from a bust they effected in January, DRI officials had kept watch on a person employed by Menzies Bobba Ground Handling Services.
When the flight arrived, the staffer went to the aerobridge and waited near the aircraft, ahead of the CISF check point.
The CISF point is located before Immigr-ation and Customs desks. He was posted at the baggage section but had evaded his manager and reached the aerobridge.
“We had our eyes on this staffer because he was supposed to receive the gold in the smuggling case that we busted three months earlier. At that time, he had sent his colleague, whom we had arrested. Based on his confession, we kept a watch on this particular staffer,” said a DRI official.
At the aerobridge, the suspect employee received the smuggler and took the package from him. “The 3 kg gold was wrapped in a plastic cover. The staffer took it from the smuggler and concealed it in his blazer. He lurked around for a while, till the smuggler cleared Immigration and Customs. After that, he walked out through a blind spot, where Customs, immigration and CISF officers generally pay no attention,” said a DRI official.
The staffer walked out of the airport through the staff exit point into the DRI net.
The identity of the employee has not been revealed, as it is not allowed under the Customs Act.