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Jewellery catches customs eye
- Anushka held up at airport for hours

Mumbai, June27: Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma was stopped at Mumbai airport today by customs officials carrying jewellery worth several lakhs.

The Band Baaja Baarat star, who was returning from Toronto, was allowed to leave after three hours after she explained that she had lost the documents, and the jewellery and watches had been “lent” to her for “endorsement” at the IIFA awards in the Canadian city.

“Sharma was not formally detained. It would be better to say she was delayed from exiting the airport for verification of some papers and clearing of some formalities. She was carrying jewellery and watches worth about Rs 30 lakh for which she could not produce valid documents initially,” said an official with the air intelligence unit of the customs department.

The customs source in Mumbai said Anushka had “explained” to officials that she had taken the jewellery and watches from India while going abroad and had formally declared the goods at that time. “But she had lost the documents in Toronto. She also said the items did not belong to her and had been lent to her for use by top jewellery and watch brands for endorsement at the IIFA. We needed to verify her claims so it took some time before we could let her go.”

The verification included an evaluation of the gold-diamond jewellery and expensive watches along with documents from the relevant brands confirming the ownership of the items.

“All the items in question are in customs custody though the star has been allowed to leave. The companies which own the items will have to produce the relevant documents and get them released from our custody. All this would not have been required if she had not lost her documents,” the official said.

Airport sources said the actress, who had to stay at the airport till 5.30pm, lost her cool when accosted by air intelligence officials.

A source close to Anushka, 23, said: “She was pulled out of the line like a common criminal and asked to open her baggage. She is a star and naturally there was public curiosity accompanied by some very unpalatable comments.”

This was the third time in a little over a month that customs officials at the airport had stopped Bollywood actresses.

On May 18, Minissha Lamba was stopped at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on her way back from Cannes. The actress, who had lost her luggage at Nice airport, couldn’t produce the declaration form she had filled up for the Rs 50 lakh-worth of jewellery she was carrying when she left India.

Eight days later, Bipasha Basu was subjected to a luggage check. It was found that the actress, who was returning from America, was carrying cosmetics and shoes worth Rs 60,000 and owed the customs department about Rs 12,000 in duties which she paid up.

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