Like any average flier, Katrina Kaif walked through the green channel at the Mumbai international airport at 5 am on Sunday with nothing to declare, and drove off. But what followed next smacked of the special treatment celebrities and their entourage get, even at places known for their rigid rules.
The actor was returning from Chicago along with her two assistants. She exited the terminal without claiming any luggage. After walking her to the car, assistants P Chaddha and Arun Sharma went back inside to collect her 'forgotten' bags from the carousel - in a clear violation of airport rules that prevent fliers from re-entering the terminal.
Sources in the Customs's Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) claim that the security gave the two admission after they identified themselves as Katrina's personal staff. Chaddha and Sharma tried to walk out with Katrina's two bags, an iPad, undeclared cash of `30,000 and two bottles of whisky, which they had purchased from a duty-free shop, when a team led by AIU deputy commissioner Samir Wankhede confronted them and demanded an explanation for not declaring these items before. Their declaration forms revealed that the luggage actually belonged to Katrina, but one of the assistants had signed on behalf of her. Chaddha was fined `2,000 for carrying undisclosed goods, whereas Sharma was slapped with a `10,000 penalty under theForeign Exchange Regulation Act, which limits the amount of Indian currency a passenger can carry abroad.
Katrina was not called back to the airport, a reprieve rarely extended to passengers. An airport official said that this was done for "security reasons". "We will call her for a statement soon," he said.
"Rules say that every passenger should accompany his/her luggage. Indian celebrities carry their own bags when they go abroad. However, on their return, these VIPs leave their luggage with their assistants," says Airport Customs Commissioner, PM Saleem. According to Saleem, calling back celebrities is not always a good option as it creates embarrassment for them as well as the customs. "Celebrities often complain that they are targeted by customs officers. However, they should realise that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law," he said.
Katrina Kaif remained unavailable for comment.
SOURCE - TIMES OF INDIA