THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was a special operation by the customs that helped them achieve the feat of seizing 30kg gold that was being smuggled in a baggage addressed to a diplomat.
But the overall surveillance at Thiruvananthapuram is porous, helping anyone who has a fair knowledge of the system in place can easily smuggle contrabands out of its premises.
Including the latest catch, there has been a total of 12 smuggling cases detected at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport this year. Considering the fact that the airport functioned only for barely four months, the number of cases detected is high.
According to Customs sources, one of the main reasons for weak surveillance here is insufficient number of officials. There are around 10 to 12 vital spots inside the airport where presence of customs officials is required. But on most days, total number of officials on duty is not more than five. There have been times when central industrial security force personnel here had come to their aid. For example, an AC mechanic working in the airport was held in May last year, for helping a passenger smuggle 9.5kg gold. The accused was caught by the CISF officers on duty on the aerobridge and handed over to the Customs officials. A few days before this incident, there had been another catch in which 25kg gold was seized. It was later revealed that a superintendent of Customs too was involved in that racket.
The shortage of manpower is not the only problem they face. Most of the equipment they use, including handheld x-ray scanners, are outdated.
“Despite the shortcomings, we have managed to make major catches by strategically coordinating our duty,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.