Fifty passengers were yesterday stopped at Chennai from boarding a Jet Airways flight to Colombo after customs officials found them carrying commercial goods, but travelling on a tourist visa, the Deccan Chronicle reported.
This is the first instance in recent times that the customs department has stopped passengers from travelling abroad en masse. The plane, carrying 114 passengers, left for Colombo leaving behind the 50 traders.
The passengers, mostly traders from Burma Bazaar, were carrying brand new clothing, such as lungis, inner wear, nightwear and churidhars to Colombo.
Commercial goods cannot be carried as bona fide baggage. The officials also said that the men were susceptible to smuggling in gold on their return journey.
A senior customs official said that the traders could have taken the commercial goods with them on payment of a fine. While customs officials did not generally view departures as a priority, it still took action when needed as they wanted to discourage commercial activity via this route.
The official further pointed out that those who carried retail goods may not return to the city.
“If they did, they could return as ‘carriers’ of other goods,, such as gold or illegal items, landing at airports nearby and travelling to Chennai by road. But we keep a watch on such passengers at all airports,” the official added.
The passengers were naturally upset lot. “We have been carrying such retail items for many years now. Earlier, we even used to carry medicines for sale in Sri Lanka but have stopped it now,” said Mohammed Wasa.