Mumbai, Aug. 19: CISF staffers at Mumbai airport would allegedly exchange bags of clothes at toilets with similar-looking bags of gold brought by a smuggler gang’s “carriers” from abroad and hand the latter over to the racket’s kingpin waiting in a car outside.
The Central Industrial Security Force has now suspended eight personnel including two officers in connection with the racket at the airport, where the force apparently frisks everyone except its own staffers.
In an indication that the scam may run deep within the organisation, the CISF has sought clarification from a deputy inspector-general, an IPS officer who used to handle the airport’s security but was transferred to the Northeast just before the scam was unearthed on August 10.
Ajay Kumar, a CISF commandant in charge of the airport, too has been sent off to Maoist belt Dantewada in Chhattisgarh but officials refused to explain the reason for the sudden transfer.
Department of revenue intelligence (DRI) sources say the racket has been on for more than a year and may have snaked in at least Rs 200 crore worth of gold so far.
The drama began on August 10 with the DRI’s arrest of two CISF sub-inspectors --- Uday Singh Meena, 32, and Murarilal Meena, 35 ---- who were allegedly smuggling 10kg of gold and Rs 3 crore out of the airport. With them were arrested the two alleged carriers and the smuggling kingpin but all five are out on bail.
Uday was apparently caught red-handed while receiving the booty in an airport toilet from the carriers who had just arrived from Dubai.
“The bags (of clothes and gold) looked similar; so nobody would have suspected anything,” a DRI source said.
Murarilal, posted at the airport’s domestic wing, was inducted into the smuggling team by alleged gang leader Sandeep Rathod early last year, DRI sources said. Uday, who heads the CISF’s quick response team at the international wing, was allegedly drafted by Murarilal, who devised the idea of exchanging similar bags, they added.
As a trainer of recruits and newly transferred personnel, Uday allegedly brought in six other CISF staffers into the network.
“Rathod’s people made at least 40 trips to Dubai in the past eight months,” the DRI source said. His version of how the racket operated:
Rathod’s alleged carriers —Jayant Kumar Mehta and Sagar Chedda — would go to Dubai to collect gold from his contact. Mehta would declare the gold at Dubai airport but exchange the bag with Chheda in Mumbai on arrival.
Mehta would then walk out through the green channel while Chheda would call Murarilal and would be directed to a toilet before crossing the security barrier. Here Uday would exchange bags.
nChheda would walk out of the green channel and Uday would step out of the airport and hand the bag to Rathod or Murari.
“After paying Murari and Uday Rs 20,000 each per bag, Rathod would give Mehta and Chheda Rs 25,000 each per trip and make a cool profit of Rs 3-4 lakh on every kilo of gold sold in the market,” the DRI officer said.
He added: “Murari was not totally loyal to Rathod. Behind Rathod’s back, he also worked with another smuggler, Praveen Jain, who had branched out from Rathod’s gang after a dispute.”
CISF deputy inspector-general (operations and intelligence) Jaideep Prasad said: “We have suspended eight personnel including the two sub-inspectors pending inquiry and investigation.”
The incident has embarrassed the customs airport intelligence unit which, over the past one year, had tom-tommed the detention of every Bollywood starlet caught trying to evade duty by walking out through the green channel with taxable designer goodies bought overseas.
Today, customs officials who would often ring the media to report their latest Bollywood catch were unavailable for comment. A senior customs officer, however, blamed the airport security protocol for the racket.
“None of the CISF personnel’s bags are checked at any level at the domestic or international airport. The CISF personnel do not frisk their colleagues. They do frisk the customs personnel, though,” he complained.
On August 11, the DRI busted a second gold smuggling racket at the airport. Atul Bafna, alleged member of another smuggling racket, was caught with 4.7kg of jewellery. His airport contacts have not yet been traced.