PUNE: Reading body language of passengers is the most important skill for Custom Department officials to track passengers suspected of carrying contraband, said department officials.
Recently, the arrest of four passengers carrying gold worth Rs 1.38 crore at Pune airport was accomplished when Customs Department officials felt the accused had hidden something in their luggage after observing their body language.
“When we caught these four persons coming from Abu Dhabi at the airport, one of the suspects was trying to move forward without checking in his bags. When we asked him to re-check his baggage, he started arguing with the Customs staff. It shows that he had something suspicious hidden,” said a senior officer attached to the Customs Department.
Two women were nabbed by Customs officials in February when they were carrying gold ornaments in their undergarments. Officials recovered around 1 kg of gold from them when they arrived from Abu Dhabi by a Jet Airways flight. The accused had been identified as Rukhsana Shaikh and Amreen Shaikh.
“The women arrived at Pune airport clad in burkhas. They seemed to be in a hurry. Suddenly, one of our officers heard clanking noises and stopped Rukhsana. Our woman officer started frisking her and found gold bangles worth Rs 12 lakh tightly bound. Our officer found a necklace and earrings worth Rs 5 lakh on Amreen. She was repeatedly trying to cover the ornaments with her burkhas,” said the official.
In another case, a city-based tailor was nabbed by Customs officials for carrying rhodium worth Rs 5 lakh in January. Rhodium is used for polishing diamonds and putting sparkle on fine jewellery. Officials also seized six I-phones and cigarettes worth Rs 3.10 lakh from the accused, Likayat Ali Hussain (48), who had also arrived from Abu Dhabi.
The case was peculiar in nature as Likayat made sure that he entered the Pune airport building after all the passengers to avoid being detected by Customs officials. He was fumbling with his trolley bag all the time. His activity was read by an official keeping a close eye on passengers.
“The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) always keeps a close eye on fliers who are coming from international flights. Most of the time when somebody is carrying something suspicious in his/her luggage, they always try to look somewhere else and trying to find out if Customs officials are looking at them. This often catches the eye of Customs officials,” said RN Batra, a retired AIU officer.