Pilots and cabin crew members of Air India are posing “significant security risk” by exiting the Mumbai Airport without customs check, the national carrier has been told by the Customs Department after two of its employees were allegedly caught smuggling gold.
Officials recently caught two Air India crew members while they were allegedly smuggling three kgs of gold worth over Rs 78 lakh on a domestic flight, the department has informed the airline.
Sources said the department has also said that pilots and cabin crew members of Air India are posing “significant security risk” by exiting terminal 2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai without customs check.
In a communication sent yesterday, Assistant Commissioner of the Customs Department’s Air Intelligence Unit has conveyed to Air India that it has come to its notice that pilots and crew members of the national carrier do not go through customs check. “This poses a significant security risk,” the officer said.
The sources said the department has also cited the instances of the two crew members — Nihal Prajapati and Sidhesh Patil, who were caught for the alleged gold smuggling.
The department had directed Air India to ensure that all its crew members and pilots conform to procedure at the airport, saying any deviation would be “viewed seriously”, the sources said.
An SMS sent to Air India spokesperson seeking his response on the issue remained unanswered.
Earlier also, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had apprised the airline of the alleged smuggling by its crew members. In a letter written by DRI Director General Najeeb Shah, Air India was asked to “sanitise” its staff, especially those involved in ground-handling duties.
According to official sources, the DRI has also cited some past incidents of gold smuggling by Air India staffers in its missive. The DRI is understood to have sought a detailed inquiry report regarding those held for illegally bringing gold into the country.
In 2013, an Air India air hostess and her friend were arrested by the DRI from Calicut International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle into 6 kgs of gold.
In October that year, 32 kgs of gold biscuits, worth Rs 15 crore in the international market, were recovered from the lavatory of an Air India plane when it reached Chennai from Dubai. Four persons were later arrested in the case, the sources said.