Two IndiGo airline employees, K.V. Sajid Rahman (29) and K.P. Mohammad Zamil Qaisi (27) were caught red-handed by the customs department yesterday while smuggling around 4.5 kg of gold. Rahman from Malappuram is a senior ramp supervisor, and Zamil, a customer service agent, is from Kannur.
They used to find the baggage containing gold on the flight coming from abroad, replace the international tag with domestic ones and thus pave the way for gold smuggling. Domestic passengers are exempted from customs inspection. This incident has prompted customs to widen the investigation.
Customs officials seized the gold in compound form from the baggage of Wayanad native Ashkar Ali, who arrived from Dubai. Ali managed to give the authorities the slip and escaped from the airport. Local media reported the smuggling attempt from the infamous Karipur airport in the Malappuram district.
Rahman and Zamil used to roam around when handling staff transferred items of baggage from the airplane. Once they caught sight of the smuggler’s luggage, they would move to the conveyor belt. They used to remove the baggage from the trolley and replace the international tags with domestic ones. They would then bypass the X-ray machines and the mandatory customs checks and exit the airport with the baggage.
Alert airport security staff informed customs officials that they were roaming around suspiciously in the airside area (runways, taxiways, aprons, and ramps). The general public does not have access to these areas. Following this, customs officers checked the CCTV cameras and noticed some baggage tampered with. According to earlier information, some waiting passengers evaded the customs and escaped, adding to the suspicion.
On Thursday, the flight security department informed customs that Rahman and Zamil had reached the airside area. They took out the baggage but grew suspicious when they saw security personnel. They returned the baggage onto the conveyor belt and moved away from the area. It is suspected that this was when they tipped off smuggler Ali.
This baggage was marked for inspection by the customs officer who was in X-ray. No one came to take it up. Then, in the presence of IndiGo officials, customs opened the bag and found the gold hidden inside socks and wrapped in cloth belts. Using the CCTV footage, the customs department confirmed that they were behind the gold smuggling and took the two into custody.
4,411 grams of gold was extracted, costing more than Rs.2.25 crores. Investigators found that Rahman and Zamil were connected with the notorious smuggling gangs of Karipur and Koduvally. The kingpins are yet to be arrested.
Customs officials received information that Indigo staff have smuggled gold several times. This racket was busted after days of surveillance. Their modus operandi points to serious questions about the integrity of anti-national employees and calls for a serious revamp at all airports.
Airports in Kerala have become a hub for gold smugglers who use sophisticated techniques to smuggle gold into Bharat. Kozhikode Airport is second in the nation for gold seizures, according to data given in Parliament. The amount of gold seized at the airport until November of last year was 128.170 kg, second only to Chennai airport’s 130.10 kg. With 62.281 kg of illegal gold seized, Kochi airport comes in third place, behind Kannur airport’s 28.939 kg of gold.