Bollywood actress Minissha Lamba, detained at the airport here yesterday on arrival from France for not declaring jewellery estimated to be worth over Rs 31 lakh, has claimed the ornaments were for promotional purpose and do not belong to her.
The 26-year-old, who was let off after a second round of questioning today, which followed a 16-hour-long grilling which took place on her arrival from Cannes, said that the episode was a "minor procedural lapse" being blown out of proportion.
The actress was questioned again for nearly three and half hours today, during which she admitted she was not aware of the procedure of declaring the jewellery which she claimed had been carried from India for her stint at the international film festival.
"I am free. It was a minor procedural lapse. There was a lapse in declaration. The custom officials have been kind and co-operative. The jewellery is with the customs and is being assessed by them. I don't understand why is it being blown up. It is not as serious as it sounds. The situation is fine, I am going home," Lamba said, emerging after the questioning.
"In something like this, there is a lot of paper work involved and that is why it has taken a long time," she added.
"Today she was called to our office at Marol in Andheri. Her statement was recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962," said Mahendra Pal, Additional Commissioner (Air Intelligence Unit).
The AIU of the Customs, in a release, valued the assorted jewelery made of gold and studded with diamond and precious and semi-precious stones and other dutiable goods at Rs 31,32,133, clearing the confusion over the value of goods that was pegged at around Rs 35-50 lakh. The entire jewellery was seized.
"The passenger (Lamba) has accepted non declaration (of goods) and also said the jewellery was taken out from India while she went to attend the Cannes Film Festival on May 11. Further investigation is in progress," Pal added.
"The actress has claimed she does not own the jewellery found in her possession. During her questioning, we were told that the ornaments belong to a jewellery brand, Anmol Jewellers, whose owner is her friend. Her friend gave them to her purely for promotional purpose," a top Customs official said on condition of anonymity.
Lamba has pleaded that she was not aware that she has to make a declaration before taking the high-value jewellery out of the country and bringing it back, the official claimed.
"She fully co-operated during the questioning. She had also produced documents to prove her innocence," said the official, who caught the actor with the undeclared goods.
The actor has been charged under the the Customs Act for violation of norms, he said adding, "she will be called to the Customs office as and when required."
As per rules, the actor should have declared the jewellery before flying outside the country and got an export certificate from Customs authorities.
"Then she would have been allowed to go after showing the certificate," the official.
Asked what action she may face for violating the rules, the official said, "An appropriate action will be taken against her after verifying her statement and documents she submitted."
"After a thorough probe, we will come to a conclusion on whether she should be arrested or penalized. There is no time frame for investigations," he said.
Lamba, who landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport from Cannes, France, via Dubai by an Emirates flight at 8.30 am yesterday, was crossing the green channel when she was intercepted by the Customs.
During checking, the actor was allegedly found carrying gold bangles, necklace, earrings and other gold and diamond jewellery in her bag.
Lamba, whose debut film Yahaan received critical acclaim, has acted in movies like Bachna Ae Haseeno, Corporate and Well Done Abba.
She was in France for the premiere of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.
"This was a learning experience for me. (I have realized that) even a small mistake can turn into a major incident," Lamba told PTI over phone when contacted.
"I had all the necessary documents. I had to prove to them that the jewellery did not belong to me. It was given by city-based Anmol Jewellers who had asked me to wear it at the Cannes film festival," she said.
The jewellery is now with the Customs officials and will be handed over to Anmol Jewellers," the actor said.
Undeclared Jewellery Does Not Belong to Me: Minissha
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