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Thieves strike Delhi-Mumbai air travellers

RESTRICTIONS ON carrying handbags on flights mean fliers are forced to check in their baggage, including valuables. This, however, is no guarantee of safety — not for those who have flown from the Delhi airport, especially on Indian Airlines.

Till recently, a well-knit group of cargo and baggage personnel — outsourced by the airlines from a firm called Arun Enterprises — had been slyly opening suitcases and other baggage of passengers and pocketing in valuable items.

After a stream of complaints, the airlines began keeping a tab on their activities. Last week, it was able to lift the lid on the flourishing racket involving “at least eight people” when four of them were caught in the act. Three have since been arrested while one is on the run.

Most complaints came from passengers flying on the Delhi-Mumbai circuit. They found their suitcases had been opened and valuables (gold, cameras, money) had gone missing. “Complaints about passengers receiving opened baggage at their destination were alarming. That’s how we swung into action,” said an airlines official.

The modus operandi of the crooks: throwing the suitcases on the ground with force. Before being caught, the cargo handlers stole jewellery worth Rs 4 lakh from the suitcase of an army colonel who was travelling from Delhi to Kozhikode on August 20.

Sources said the men might have been involved in a string of thefts.
Still, people like Colonel Pankaj Akshan and his wife Sarla hold the airlines responsible for not taking proper care of their baggage.


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