The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Plane pickpockets check in at Calcutta airport

Calcutta, Nov. 5: Pickpockets, forget bus stations and buses. It is time to fly high.

Three pickpockets operating mid-air and in lounges of airports were arrested at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport today.

Police said Ravi Kumar, Usha Kant Janardan and Mahendra Kumar Sharma used to pass themselves off as passengers and steal money and valuables from genuine travellers at the airport lounge and, sometimes, inside flights.

The trio was arrested this morning by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and handed over to airport police.

Three tickets on Mumbai-bound domestic flights, several open-ended tickets and Rs 120,000 in cash were found on them, CISF officials said.

“Ravi Kumar and Usha Kant are from Mumbai and Sharma is a resident of Calcutta,” said Ajay Nand, additional superintendent of police. “They used to fool passengers by replacing their bags with a similar looking one which would be empty.”

The youths used to buy tickets for domestic flights and enter the lounge, posing as normal passengers. Spreading out, they would look for passengers who appeared lax after a long wait inside the airport.

Two of the youths were directly involved in the operation. Sitting beside the prey, they used to lift bags, purses and other belongings and walk away. As soon as it was evident that the operation had gone off without a hitch, the third youth would cancel the tickets.

However, if they were not successful in the lounge, the three would board a flight and rob passengers sitting beside them, the police said.

“Ravi and Usha Kant used to fly to Calcutta from Mumbai and after the operation, they would return,” a CISF official said.

With complaints flooding in from robbed passengers, the CISF stepped up the vigil inside the domestic lounge of the Calcutta airport. Plainclothesmen were keeping watch and today they were successful in arresting the pickpockets.

“One of the plainclothesmen saw a youth quietly picking up the bag of a passenger and briskly walking towards the exit,” an official said.

Immediately, the youth, Ravi Kumar, was intercepted and all the exit points from the lounge were blocked. Kumar then identified his two companions, who were arrested and handed over to the police.

“These gangs are operating inside the airport lounge for long. Earlier, too, three persons were arrested on similar charges,” Nand said. He said that the trio had confessed about their operation and were sent to jail.

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