FIA foils cigarette smuggling bid

Arrests KSA-bound female passenger, recovers illicit tobacco products

Saleh Mughal April 23, 2024
photo: file


The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Monday foiled a smuggling attempt at the New Islamabad International Airport and arrested a female suspect.

According to an FIA spokesperson, the suspect had successfully boarded a Saudi-bound flight with illicit items before being taken into custody.

The incident, however, raised concerns about lapses in security protocols. The spokesperson further said the incident involved a female passenger, Kiran from Lahore, whose luggage contained prohibited items destined for Saudi Arabia.

As the briefing for flight SV 725 to Saudi Arabia was underway, Kiran proceeded through the red counters of the Airport Security Force (ASF), Customs, and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) without any hindrance. However, immigration staff noticed her frequent trips to Saudi Arabia, triggering suspicions that led to further scrutiny.

Senior immigration officials, after verifying Kiran's travel documents, ordered a thorough check of her luggage, which had already passed through the three departments' clearance procedures. The airline was directed to retrieve the luggage from the plane, leading to the discovery of 638 packets of cigarettes, 200 boxes of Velo, and 238 packets of gutka hidden in Kiran's belongings.

Following the discovery, she was offloaded from the flight and handed over to customs along with the seized items. Despite the swift action, concerns lingered among ASF, Customs, and ANF personnel over how the prohibited items managed to evade detection.

An investigation has been launched to determine the lapse in security measures despite the presence of scanning equipment and the oversight of multiple agencies at the airport.

Authorities emphasised that it is incumbent upon all relevant agencies, including customs, to thoroughly inspect aircraft and issue clearance certificates before departure.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2024.


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