A China-bound cargo plane of the United Arab Emirates Air Force was detained and its ten crew members including the pilot were questioned when customs officials found arms and ammunition on board the aircraft after it made a scheduled transit landing at the airport in Kolkata.
The 10 crew members were taken to a nearby luxury hotel and being questioned by the customs officials who along with immigration officials found the plane was carrying "arms and ammunition" during a routine check on Sunday, Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, Spokesman of the Eastern Air Command said.
The C-130 plane was on its way to Hanyang in China from Abu Dhabi and had landed at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport to refuel around 5.30 pm on Sunday.
The crew members did not inform in the routine declaration submitted to authorities that arms and ammunition were in the plane, which however had the required civil and military clearance for transit through Kolkata, Upasani said.
The particular column in the proforma was left blank, he added.
Upasani said the quantity and type of arms and ammunition being carried was immediately not known. The customs officials did a "wonderful job" by detecting the arms and ammunition in the plane, he said.
Customs officials said that the Ministry of External Affairs had been briefed about the development.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said the government is trying to get a report and will look into the matter.
The plane was taken to bay number 14 and parked there and it was not known when the plane would be permitted to take off, airport sources said.
Airport sources said no one could leave a column blank in the proforma while applying for a routine airplane transit.
Upasani said question of any action will be chalked out only after a thorough interrogation of the crew.
If the authorities press charges, the aircraft and crew may have to stay in the city till the process is completed.
The aircraft was granted permission by the Indian Air Force to land at 5.30 pm on Sunday after the Air Traffic Control contacted Directorate-General of Civil Aviation which asked it to get in touch with the IAF.
ATC then informed the IAF that the airforce cargo plane of a foreign country, C-130, had been seeking permission to land for refuelling and it was granted, sources said.
Airport sources said that after the customs found discrepancy in the pilot's declaration the IAF authorities asked the ATC to detain the aircraft to facilitate interrogation by the IAF and customs.
"The transit was a planned one, it was not something of an emergency. Whenever a foreign origin aircraft applies for permission to transit through India they apply through proper international protocol channel through the embassies and must declare in the proforma whether or not arms and ammunition is on board," said Upasani.