The spurt in gold and drugs smuggling cases has prompted Mumbai Airport Customs to seek a separate data server of air passengers’ detailed information available with immigration authorities, and three more sniffer dogs to clamp down on smugglers at the international airport.
Immigration authorities currently have the data server which stores the details of every air passenger flying in and out of the country.
This information is required for the purposes of ensuring aviation safety and security. However, the Customs currently does not have a separate data server with air passenger information.
“If we have such data server on air passengers, we can go for data analysis, storage, archiving, and other tasks to hunt down suspects from lakhs of passengers. So we sought the higher authorities to provide us such date server,” a Customs official told PTI.
Mumbai airport witnesses nearly 34 million passenger movements every year and is among the busiest airports in the continent.
At present, the Customs officials depend upon its intelligence information and technology, besides keenly observing the movements of lakhs of passengers on a daily basis to track down the suspects carrying gold and drugs.
“Significant help comes from sniffer dogs also which hint drugs presence with a passenger. We have seven dogs now. Going by the air traffic, we need at least three more sniffer dogs and accordingly, we mooted a proposal for the same before the department concerned,” the Customs official said.
The Customs say that around 20 sniffer dogs are needed for the international airport, air cargo and foreign postal department to detect drugs and explosives. At present, the department is reeling under a 65 per cent shortage.
Moreover, when it comes to gold smuggling, it’s a bit difficult to catch hold of suspects.
“Presently we detect the yellow metal with a passenger through door frame metal detector. However, there were instances where the smugglers managed to hoodwink security agencies and walked away,” the official said.
“If we have access to the air passenger data independently, then we can track down the movements of suspects and inquire them thoroughly,” he said.
“For instance, if a passenger is making a number of trips to some countries, and we can access his personal information and purpose of trips, we can inquire him/her on suspicion if required,” he said.
In 2013-14, as much as 346 kg of gold has been seized from the smugglers by the Customs, a whopping 458 per cent jump in last years’ cases, when 61.66 kg gold was seized.
Drugs worth Rs 105 crore were confiscated in the same period whereas contraband worth Rs 49.77 crore was seized in 2012-13.
Among smuggling cases, a total 187 persons were arrested, which is almost double the number as compared to 94 held in 2012-13.
The Customs is also holding special training sessions for its Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) men on regular intervals to heighten hawk-eyed vigil at the ChhatrapatiShivaji international airport here in a bid to catch hold of suspects.