CHENNAI: Duty-free liquor may not mean much to these two men, now that they’re in the slammer. Arrested as part of a liquor smuggling racket by the Airport Police, Madan Singh (37) and Sathik Basha (43) have been persuading regular passengers flying from Colombo to Chennai to carry their stipulated two bottles of liquor purchased at the airport, and hand it over once they cleared customs.
Any international air passenger is allowed to purchase two bottles of liquor sans duty charges and take it to their destination. It is widely believed that customs notified shops have a better quality of liquor and are available at cheaper prices than on retail.
“We received information that this gang had been collecting liqour outside the airport and selling it at an underground operation out of a place in Mannady, so we decided to intercept them,” said Airport Police Inspector Mahimaiveeran.
A team from the airport police waited at the arrival area of the Anna International Terminal as passengers of flight UL 127 cleared customs and began streaming out.
“We picked up two passengers who were doing the ferrying and they led us to the two men who were running the operation,” he added.
When they searched the vehicle of the duo, the cops were surprised to find 37 (full) bottles of imported scotch whiskey and native liquor along with 24 bottles of an international beer brand, normally found in very few places in Chennai.
The bottles were seized and the four men were taken for enquiry around 3 pm.
“Some of the brands can be sold for double the price outside and there is a huge demand,” said a Air Intelligence Unit officer from Chennai Customs.
It was further revealed that the men had allegedly been inducing unsuspecting passengers to ‘legally’ ferry liquor for them - either by pretending to want it for their friends, or by paying them petty amounts of cash for the service.
“It is suspected that they have been doing it for a while, as they also go to Colombo quite often and bring some bottles back and find their targets at the airport there. We are still investigating,” said another police official.
This sort of smuggling operation has been observed on a smaller scale in the past, but rarely in such large quantities.