The four major seizures at the Chennai international airport during the last three weeks — be it gold or foreign exchange — were effected by inputs from agencies other than the Customs officials.
After the last airport customs commissioner left the office in the last week of July this year, the top brass of the Union Finance ministry in Delhi is yet to zero in on the right officer to head the operations at Chennai airport in the home state of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman.
In a seizure at Chennai airport on Wednesday, the Customs team recovered 1.34 kg gold from a woman passenger who arrived from Dubai, based on input from DRI.
In the last week of August, a gang had managed to smuggle out nine kg gold worth more than Rs 4 crore from the airport. The Customs officials had missed it and a police team stumbled upon the gold when they investigated a robbery in Pallavaram.
In another incident reported last week, the Air Intelligence Unit of the Customs department took the pain in claiming credit for a 3 kg gold seizure made by DRI. Sources familiar with airport operation said the gold was seized by DRI sleuths and handed over to the Customs department.
Similarly, in another seizure, this time foreign exchange worth Rs 11.5 lakh from a Dubai-bound passenger that happened at the airport. The seizure was done by the CISF personnel and later handed over to the Customs officials.
Lack of coordinated effort from the Customs officials in the prevention of smuggling activities is attributed to the reduction in the number of sleuths in the department’s intelligence-gathering apparatus. Sources noted that the strength of 40 plus AIU team has been downsized, probably because the number of international passenger flights has come down because of the COVID-induced lockdown scenario.