The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Monday busted an international hawala racket involving a flight crew member when they arrested a woman flight attendant of Jet Airways from Delhi Airport.
According to report the flight attendant in question was allegedly trying to smuggle out forex worth more than Rs. 3 crore. The DRI claimed that she was part of a major global hawala syndicate, reported PTI.
The DRI officials intercepted the woman when she was on a flight to Hong Kong on Monday, the agency said in a statement.
“During examination of her checked in and hand baggage, $4,80,200 wrapped in aluminium foil with a market value of Rs. 3.25 crore, has been recovered,” it said.
The air hostess was suspected of pocketing half the money which was to be flown outside the country. This allegedly has been going on for last two months, reported India Today.
During interrogation, the woman first said that she was only carrying $80,000 with her. However, the investigators disagreed with her stating that the money stashed in her bag was ‘significantly mroe than’ $80,000.
The DRI also found out during investigation that the woman was a carrier for a major international hawala syndicate and has carried foreign currencies many times for a Delhi-based hawala operator, the statement said.
The operator, identified as Amit Malhotra, is a resident of Vivek Vihar area in Delhi, a senior DRI official said.
He said Malhotra would smuggle forex out and into the country with the help of airline crew members.
“Amit Malhotra would collect money from some bullion dealers in Delhi and send it through some air hostess to select foreign destinations. The money was being used for purchasing gold abroad. The gold would then be sent to India illegally,” the official said.
However, a report by Indian Express said that Malhotra had a conversation with her for the first time about two-three minutes and later met her outside IGI Airport. He struck a deal with her and told her he would pay her Re 1 for every dollar she helped launder.
Investigation revealed that the woman, who got married a year ago, lived with her husband, who works with an online job portal. DRI officials alleged she had recently booked a 3 BHK flat in Noida, and had paid 30% advance payment.
The hawala operator had befriended the Jet Airways crew six months ago during a flight to India, he said.
The DRI suspects some other crew members of Jet Airways may also be involved in smuggling out forex, the official said. The arrested air hostess, identified as Deveshi Kulshreshtha, has allegedly admitted about the involvement of few others flight attendants in the racket.
A report by NDTV said that her husband used to deposit the money on her behalf but he has reportedly denied knowing the source of her additional income.
“Amit Malhotra has been illegally smuggling forex for over one year. There are some other crew members involved in the case. We are also trying to find out the details of bullion dealers involved in this syndicate,” he said.
Both Malhotra and the Jet Airways crew member have been arrested, the official said.
A Delhi court sent the two to two-day judicial custody.
The DRI has recovered Rs. 3.3 lakh in cash, and foreign currencies of different countries worth $2,500, besides several incriminating materials from Malhtora, he said.