THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a glaring shift from the past, the smuggling cartels are now making use of connecting flights from the United Arab Emirates to sneak in illegal gold to the state. Earlier, the booty used to be brought in by carriers who boarded direct flights from UAE. The change in modus operandi was noticed after the agencies enhanced surveillance on passengers arriving via direct flights from Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi airports.
The Customs Department sources said the move was part of the ploy to hoodwink its officials posted at the airports. Since passengers arriving on direct flights from UAE airports are subjected to rigorous checks, the cartels now deploy carriers on connecting flights. These flights emerge from Dubai and have stopovers either in Muscat, Bahrain or some other Gulf countries.
The stopover airports are known to have stringent security screening compared to UAE airports. Hence, the cartels feel the passengers arriving on those flights won’t be troubled by the officials as compared to those arriving on direct flights from Dubai.
The recent arrest of two people- one of them a 42-year-old woman, who arrived on a Dubai-Thiruvananthapuram flight that had a touchdown at Muscat- for smuggling 25 kg gold biscuits revealed the tactical changes made by smuggling rackets. An officer with the Air Intelligence Wing of the Customs told Express that the trend was noticed sometimes back and it has now become a common practice among smugglers.
“It’s easy to get things through Dubai airport. So we always maintain caution on the passengers arriving from there. To give us a slip, the smugglers have started sending carriers on connecting flights that have touchdowns at airports with tight security checks. The smugglers think we will be lenient towards the passengers for two reasons. They are not directly coming from Dubai and they have stopovers at airports with good security,” the officer added.
Customs sources said the new approach of smugglers has made the profiling of passengers more difficult. Since passengers from Dubai and Muscat are together on the same flight, it has become difficult to pay attention to those arriving from Dubai. “Those from Dubai can handover the gold to those who have boarded the flight from Muscat. So it becomes a bit tough for the agencies,” sources added.