Mumbai, March 10: An alert security staffer at the Mumbai International Airport Ltd. (MIAL) helped save 97 tortoises which were being smuggled to Bangkok on a Thai Airlines flight, an official said here Sunday.
The incident happened late Saturday when a Patna-based passenger, Mohammed Arif, checked-in to board Bangkok-bound Thai Airlines flight No.TG-318 at 11:20 p.m. with one hand baggage and another registered luggage.
While screening one of the bags of Arif, an MIAL security staffer grew suspicious and sent it for a physical check. As many as 97 live tortoises of different sizes were found concealed in eight pouches in the bag.
The customs and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials were immediately alerted. Arif, who had already boarded the flight, was ordered to alight and taken for questioning.
He claimed that the bag was handed over to him by a friend, identified as Nasir, along with $300. Further investigations are underway by the customs and forest department into the issue.
This is the second time in less than three months that alert MIAL security staffers have foiled attempts to smuggle out tortoises. Earlier, 57 live tortoises were rescued when they were in the process of being smuggled to Bangkok, an MIAL official said.