Mumbai, Jan. 19 (PTI): In a serious breach of security at Mumbai airport, security personnel failed to detect a revolver and 30 live bullets in the baggage of industrialist Nusli Wadia last week though all airports were on a high alert.
The firearm and cartridges were found by Dubai airport authorities when Wadia, promoter of budget carrier GoAir and head of Bombay Dyeing, reached there by an Air-India flight on January 13.
The incident occurred at a time when all airports in India were on high alert, especially in view of the forthcoming Republic Day. The alert levels were heightened after the July 11 serial blasts in Mumbai suburban trains last year.
On instructions from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), two ground staff of the national carrier who were on duty on that day have been suspended and an inquiry launched, official sources said.
The firearm was kept in Wadia's check-in baggage and were found when it was being screened at Dubai Airport. The weapon was confiscated by the Dubai authorities and Wadia given a receipt after he showed his arms licence.
The Dubai authorities also recorded a statement from the business magnate on the matter.
Wadia, who took the flight from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here, was "unaware of the presence of the firearm", a group spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the revolver and cartridges were "inadvertently" packed in the baggage by his domestic help, who delivered it to him at the airport.
As per rules, it is mandatory for passengers travelling on international routes with arms to get permission both from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security in India and its counterpart agency in the destination country.
In a statement, the Wadia Group spokesperson said their chief had to "leave in a hurry. He asked his staff to finish his packing.
"The help inadvertently packed an old toilet bag containing the licensed firearm. Hence, Wadia was unaware of the presence of the firearm.
"In Dubai, the firearm was discovered to Wadia's shock. The Dubai authorities were very helpful," the statement said, adding that Wadia was not detained.
The industrialist earlier reportedly admitted it was "a mistake, but no more than a storm in a tea cup".
Indian Tycoon Wadia detained at Dubai Airport for carrying Pistol
CNN-IBN, January 19, 2007
New Delhi: GoAir and Bombay Dyeing Chairman Nusli Wadia was detained at the Dubai airport on January 13 for carrying an undeclared pistol which had escaped security screening at Mumbai airport.
Wadia carried a pistol and 30 cartridges aboard Air India flight 717, flying from Mumbai to Dubai, without declaring it to the airline or Customs officials.
The pistol was in his baggage, which went through the regular security checks at Mumbai airport, but was noticed only at Dubai. Wadia was detained and questioned for three hours in Dubai and was released after he showed his arms licence and Air India's regional director intervened.
Wadia was supposed to travel by another airline on January 13, but could not take that flight and at the last minute booked on an Air India flight scheduled to take off at 3 pm.
He didn’t have time to go home and pack his bags, so he asked his domestic help to send his luggage to the airport directly. There were two similar looking bags in a cupboard: one had Wadia’s toiletries and the other the pistol.
The help reportedly made a mistake and sent the bag carrying the pistol with the rest of the luggage. Wadia did not check his baggage and took it to Dubai.
Wadia has the status of a Commercially Important Person, which gives him certain privileges at the airport but not exemption from frisking.
Two baggage clearance employees have been suspended at the Mumbai airport, which is under the security cover of the Central Industrial Security Force.
Wadia could now be charged under Aircraft Carriage of Dangerous Goods Act.
Air India refused to comment but Bombay Dyeing officials privately admitted the incident, which they said was a mistake.
The Prime Minister, President and the Chief Justice of India are the only people in the country who are not frisked at the airport.