The recent alleged sexual assault on a woman from Uzbekistan by two customs officials at the Delhi airport has brought back the memory of nearly two-decade-old "Olga" case in which over 40 officers of the department were booked for aiding smuggling in exchange for sexual favours and bribes, officials said Wednesday.
The customs department is looking into the latest case at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. It is suspected that the two accused, who have been suspended from service, could be part of a large smuggling racket involving other senior officers, they said.
A vigilance inquiry is under way into the matter, the officials said, adding an Internal Complaints Committee is also probing the case.
In August 2000, they said, the department had detained Uzbek woman Olga Kozireva at the airport and she was found to be carrying Chinese silk, a prohibited item, in large quantity.
Investigation revealed Olga made hundreds of trips to India from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries - that came into existence after the Soviet Union dissolved - since 1997. She made 68 trips in 2000 alone and brought large number of goods illegally with the help of customs officials, they said.
In 2001, the case was referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation as the name of senior customs officers cropped up as accused. The central probe agency then arrested Olga.
Olga was smuggling Chinese silk, gold and other items in big bags and sacks with the help of 48 customs officials and two Afghan nationals, the officials said.
The customs officers were allegedly provided huge bribe and girls from Uzbekistan to allow Olga to pass through the green channel with smuggled goods, they said.
The Olga case happened when B P Verma was the head of Central Board of Excise and Customs, now known as Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs - a top policy-making body of the customs department, the officials said.
Verma was later removed as CBEC chief for allegedly receiving illegal gratification from a Chennai-based exporter, they said.
The latest alleged sexual assault on the Uzbek woman took place in May at a room without CCTV camera in the highly secured area under the customs department at Delhi airport, the officials said.
The woman had lodged a complaint with the customs authorities but retracted later after she is alleged to have been threatened of being fabricated in a false case of smuggling, besides threat to her life by the accused officer, they said.