30 ‘suspected smugglers’ escape from Lucknow airport

Lucknow, April 3 (IANS) About 30 passengers detained on suspicion of smuggling gold, managed to escape from the custody of customs officials at the Chaudhary Charan Singh airport here.

The incident took place on Tuesday. Lucknow police along with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and customs authorities have begun a massive hunt for the accused all of whom remain untraceable.

The suspects were detained at the airport following a tip-off from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) that 36 passengers were arriving with illegal gold and cigarette sticks worth Rs 3.5 crore from the UAE.

The detained passengers disembarked from the Sharjah-Lucknow flight on Monday. Custom officials seized Rs 25 lakh from them.

Sources said the standard operating procedure (SOP) says that passengers subject to suspicion must undergo an X-ray examination, typically authorized by the court.

Six passengers, including a woman, complied with the procedure and admitted to concealing gold and cigarettes. They were detained and subsequently escorted to court," said a senior officer.

However, due to the large number of detainees, the process encountered delays as others awaited their turn for X-ray screenings. One of the suspects feigned illness on Tuesday evening and that prompted the other suspects to protest against the customs department. They alleged mistreatment and danger to the life of the sick passenger.

In the ensuing chaos, 30 suspects managed to flee out of the airport. The Customs officials alerted the police.

DCP South Zone, Tej Swaroop Singh, said on Wednesday that a team was dispatched to the airport to address the situation. "We were informed of a law-and-order issue at the airport," he stated.

Police sources said they are awaiting a formal complaint from the customs department regarding the incident. Meanwhile, efforts are on to trace the escaped passengers.



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