A suspected criminal gang was reportedly found collecting US dollar 100 each from Madurai-bound passengers at Male airport on Tuesday after asking them to fill a form addressed to Madurai collector before boarding a private flight 6E990.
"When I questioned it, the collection of money just stopped. Passengers were asked to fill a form, which was similar to the one given by the Indian mission and gave US dollar 100. The form was addressed to the Madurai district administration," noted Dr Sajith Chandran who suspected something fishy. A copy of the form accessed by this newspaper showed that it was addressed to the district collector as well as COVID test labs, so that it looked like an official payment for Corona testing.
No other expats returning to India during the COVID lockdown may not have faced such a situation. They are already paying 2 to 3 times more for ticket and most of them are returning to their native places because they cannot continue to survive without a job. And some gang was trying to extort money from such people, the doctor added.
When contacted Madurai district collector TG Vinay promised to check and verify it. One flight carries around 160 passengers and if one collect US dollar 100 each, it would easily cross Indian Rs 12 lakh. Such collection of unauthorised money in foreign cities in the name of Tamil Nadu government and district administration only damage the image of the state, Dr Sajith noted. When contacted Madurai DRO clarified that private travel agents used to collect money in the name of lab tests and transportation charges.