65 live star tortoises, 4 gold idols seized at Chennai airport

Upon being questioned if he was carrying any contraband, foreign currency or wildlife, he was evasive in his reply.

Chennai: The customs officials on Sunday seized 65 live star tortoises and four gold idols of Lord Ganesha in two separate cases and arrested one person at Chennai airport.

Sources said that based on specific information, the Air Intelligence Unit intercepted one Bangkok bound passenger Venkadesan (24) of Chennai at the departure terminal after he cleared immigration and was proceeding towards security hold area.

Upon being questioned if he was carrying any contraband, foreign currency or wildlife, he was evasive in his reply. His belongings were examined and the officials found 65 live star tortoises concealed in 2 hotpot boxes which were kept between his personal effects, one in each of his two checked-in pieces of luggage. The star tortoises were seized under the Customs Act read with the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and were handed over to the Tamilnadu Forest Department along with the passenger for further action under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

In another case on Saturday night, based on specific information, one Rajalingam Mahinthan(30), a French national who had arrived from Paris via Delhi in an Air India Flight, was intercepted at the exit of the arrival hall. He was questioned as his behaviour was suspicious.

As he was evasive in his replies, his two pieces of checked-in luggage were taken up for examination. Upon examination, four pieces of small silver coated Ganesha idols were recovered, two from each bag.

The gold assayer certified that the idols were made of gold of 12-carat purity, weighed 4 kg and were valued at Rs 65 lakhs. The Ganesha idols were seized under the provisions of the Customs Act of 1962.

“The passenger alleged that he was working as a floor supervisor in a fancy shop in Paris and that his friend there had given him these idols to give to someone in Chennai for religious purposes. He claimed that he would hand them over to the concerned person outside the airport itself. However, despite waiting for a considerable amount of time, no one showed up to collect the idols from him,” said a source from the airport. The passenger has been arrested and further investigation is underway.

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