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Six fall in cheap foreign holiday net, held at airport for smuggling
January, 30th 2012

Five-days and four-night tour to Thailand and Hong Kong, complete with all expenses paid and even some freebies like massage at Pataya thrown in, just for Rs 24,000. There had to be a rider. And six travelers, who fell for the scheme, learned it only when they were detained by customs officials at Ahmedabad airport on Sunday morning. Four travel agents were also arrested with them.

Ten 55-inch LED 3D TVs and 32 bottles of liquor, worth totaling Rs 8 lakh, apart from 70,000 drug tablets and over $10,000 were seized from 10 people. The tablets, suspected to be steroids and health supplements, along with foreign currency and other imported items like perfumes and watches were concealed in silver foils inside the TV boxes to smuggle them into Ahmedabad.

All 10 people had come back from Hong Kong onboard a Bangkok-Ahmedabad Air India flight at 7 am when they were intercepted with electronic items and other prohibited goods. "Travel agents gave these items to the six passengers just before departure. The agents said that the passengers should declare these as their own. This was the basis for tour to Thailand at discounted rates organized by an Ahmedabad-based travel agency jointly with a Rajkot tour operator," said a senior customs official.

As per the customs manual, an international flyer is allowed to bring along an LCD TV. Officials said the tour prices were slashed so as to use the travelers for smuggling electronic and others goods. Sources said a team of customs preventive officials was stationed at Ahmedabad since Saturday night as the intelligence input said they will come via another flight late in the evening.

Customs officials said tour operators have often been nabbed at various airports for running a racket to smuggle LCD, LED and plasma TVs from Thailand and Malaysia. Officials said, however, this is the first time that flyers were caught with foreign currency and tablets hidden inside the TV boxes. The tablets will be sent to forensic laboratory to ascertain the exact nature of their exact content.

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