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14shahtoosh seizure at IGI airport
September, 15th 2011

In probably one of the biggest seizures of wildlife goods at the airport, customs officials at IGI airport arrested a resident of Srinagar on Tuesday night for carrying 25 shahtoosh shawls, 89 pashmina shawls and 55 stoles. The total value of the seized goods has been pegged at Rs 1,68,54,176.

Customs officials said the passenger, Mudasir Gulam Ahmed Mugloo, arrived in Delhi from Washington in Virgin Atlantic flight VS-300 on Tuesday night. When he was about to exit the terminal via the green channel he was asked to step aside. "His movements were suspicious and customs officials stopped Mugloo for a detailed examination of his baggage. When his bag was opened, officials recovered 114 shawls, stoles, three watches, one Apple Mac Pro laptop and one Apple I-pad. When questioned about the shawls, Mugloo said all were pashminas.

However, an inspector from Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) identified 25 shawls made from the highly endangered Tibetan Antelope. "Shahtoosh shawls are a prohibited animal article for commerce or business. He had cleverly used the Pashmina shawls and stoles to conceal the shahtoosh shawls. The passenger had also not declared USD 21,291 and GBP 1,025 equivalent to Rs 10,29,845 in the currency declaration form," said Ashutosh Baranwal,

He added that Mugloo confessed to having acquired the goods from a Nepali national who had woven them in his house. "We are not sure about his claims but Mugloo had taken the goods to the US for selling. After selling some of then he was returning to India. His sister also stays in the US, whom he met while he was there," added Baranwal.

WCCB officials said material for the shahtoosh shawls is obtained from the under fleece of the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope. Unlike wool that is taken by shearing, shahtoosh is obtained by killing and then skinning the animal. The international market value of a Shahtoosh shawl ranges between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh. It can fetch much more depending on the handwork and dying. It takes three to five Chirua to make one shawl.

Custom officials said the international market price of the 25 seized shahtoosh shawls was Rs 1.53 crore which included 24 shawls for Rs 6 lakh each and 1 shawl for Rs 9 lakh. The 89 pashmina shawls were valued at Rs 13,78,400, the 55 stoles at Rs 79,720, and the other goods at Rs 96,056. "The actual market value of pashmina shawls and stoles are likely to be much more. An average pashmina shawl is available for Rs 50,000 in the domestic market.

The goods were seized under Section 110 of the Customs Act, 1962. Mugloo's passport H-3628254 was issued at Srinagar. He has been arrested.

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