Sunday, June 25, 2017

Customs search hidden gold on flight by video scope


PUNE: Ever seen those cameras with thin tubes that the US Special Forces used to locate flight hijackers in the 1996 thriller 'Executive Decision'? Customs officials in Pune have recently acquired something similar. The officials will use these kits - Videoscopes - to search for gold or other illegal items that passengers tend to hide in international flights.

Sources in the customs department told that earlier this month, they acquired two such kits, costing Rs 17 lakh each.

"We check international flights and some passengers coming to Pune. There have been a few times when gold or other banned substances have been recovered, both from passengers as well as flights. There are many spots in an aircraft that are inaccessible and cannot be properly checked. It may be a little opening somewhere in the aircraft or a small hole, etc. With the help of videoscopes, one can easily check these areas and things inside become clear and visible," an official said, adding that he could not comment on whether more such kits would be procured.

There have been many instances in the past when the Pune airport custom authorities recovered gold from international flights. On November 6 last year, customs officials seized 1kg of gold bars that had been hidden under the seat of a Dubai to Pune flight. Earlier on October 26, officials had recovered gold bars worth Rs 2.8 crore from the rear toilet of an aircraft that had also arrived from Dubai.

Within two weeks in October 2016 and November 2016, officials seized gold weighing a total of 10.1kg, worth Rs 3.11 crore. At that time, the customs officials had said that they were planning to check the profile of the airline crew, including the ground staff and pilots. Officials have said that from October 2015 to October 2016, gold bars worth Rs 4.12 crore have been seized from aircraft in Pune.

"With these kits, we have an edge. The customs checks almost all international flights landing in Pune. Furthermore, by this year end, we are trying to ensure that all the equipment present with us – metal detectors, door frame metal detectors, luggage scanners - are upgraded so that we are abreast and have the latest kits with us," the official said.

At present, a total of four international flights operate from the Pune airport. They include two to Dubai (Air India and SpiceJet), one to Abu Dhabi (Jet Airways) and one to Frankfurt (Lufthansa). More flights to Middle Eastern destinations are set to start soon, sources said.


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