Two Air India employees were deported from Heathrow on Monday, after customs officials caught them trying to smuggle 1400 cartons of cigarettes into the UK their luggage. They now face court action in India, plus disciplinary action by the airline.
The two flew into the UK on Monday on a personal trip. It appears that they were trying to make a fast buck by buying the cigarettes in India and selling them in the UK, where cigarettes attract higher duties and local taxes, making them much more expensive. The cigarettes were of brands not common in the UK – Wills and Goldflake – and cost around £450 (Rs 35000) in India, but would fetch as much as 5 times that in the UK.
After the two were caught by UK customs, they were asked at to pay up a duty / penalty of £1000 each. Because they were unable or unwilling to pay the fine, they were deported back to India and the cigarettes were seized and destroyed.
The two arrived back at in Mumbai in the early hours of Tuesday morning on a British Midland flight. They were not accompanied by British authorities, but were carrying a letter issued by UK immigration saying why they were not granted leave to enter the UK.
After being questioned at Sahar by Indian immigration officials, they were handed them over to Indian customs. In addition to violating UK laws, they also broke Indian Customs laws, which prohibit the carrying of commercial quantities of any goods in baggage.
An Air India spokesman said that the two employees were not on duty in London and had acted in their personal capacities. Both were on leave at the time. ‘But when we are informed of any customs violation by our officers, we will have to take disciplinary action against them,’ the spokesman said.