Customs authorities detained Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) crew members at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport for allegedly smuggling goods and foreign currency into the country.
On Sunday, Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association (PALPA) President Captain Amir Hashmi and cabin crew of flight PK 758 that returned from London were held after customs officials recovered 21 smartphones and 5,000 British pounds from their possession.
Customs authorities alleged that the crew was involved in smuggling and had used similar tactics to sneak in valuable goods into the country.
According to sources Captain Hashmi and 11 crew members left for London for the purpose of purchasing the newly released iPhone 6 handsets. They said that crew members had swapped their duties to attend the smartphone’s launch so that they could buy the latest model in bulk.
After hours of intense negotiation between the pilots’ association, customs authorities and Air League Employees Union, the crew was released. However, customs authorities confiscated the cash and mobile phone sets.
During the investigation, First Officer Faisal and air hostess Sadia Sumbal said that some passengers had requested them to carry their mobile sets fearing that airport officials may solicit bribes if the phones were recovered from their personal baggage.
On the other hand, PIA spokesman said pilots are allowed to carry up to $10,000. However, he said if any crew member was involved in illegal activity action should be taken against them.
Protesting against the brief detention of their colleagues, the cabin crew of a Manchester-bound PIA flight walked out of the plane. The flight departed shortly after the crew members were released.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2014.
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