Deveshi Kulshrestha was an ordinary flight attendant employed with airline Jet Airways, till Tuesday. The air hostess, who hailed from Dehradun and lived in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, was caught by officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) with foreign currency worth over Rs 3 crore, trying to smuggle it out of India.
During her interrogation, it was revealed that Kulshrestha was a part of a major international hawala syndicate and has reportedly carried foreign currencies in and out of India several times before for a Delhi-based hawala operator.
The hawala operator, identified as Amit Malhotra, was arrested from Vivek Vihar area in Delhi by the DRI.
How smuggling plot was hatched mid-air
Amit Malhotra was travelling in a Jet Airways flight from Hong Kong to Delhi when he was impressed by the hospitality provided by Devshi Kulshrestha, a member of the cabin crew.
After serving dinner to the flyers, the air hostess was taking a break in the bay area when Malhotra approached her. Thanking her for the services, he spun her a yarn about being a business tycoon. Kulshrestha was impressed, and the two exchanged numbers.
Days later, she got a message from Malhotra, asking if they could meet up. The two met on her day off — it was then that Malhotra told her about his plan. According to DRI officials, he told Kulshrestha that she could earn quick money by carrying some cash — meant for a “business associate” — on her way to Hong Kong.
Initially, Kulshrestha was apprehensive about the offer, and even turned him down once. However, a persistent Malhotra managed to convince her. He even held demos for her to prove that the money neatly wrapped in foil couldn’t be detected by X-ray machines. To begin with, Malhotra played safe — the first consignment involved a small amount.
After placing a stack of dollars at the bottom, Kulshrestha put her make-up kit and clothes over them. The foil were passed off as chocolates. After landing in Hong Kong, she went to her hotel and messaged the details to Malhotra. Thereafter, Malhotra’s local conduit picked up the cash from there.
It was a no-glitch operation — and the beginning of a lengthy, and rewarding, arrangement.
Every month, she would pick up one or two consignments and deliver them to Malhotra’s partner in Hong Kong. Lately, she had been charging a rupee for every dollar, police said. In the operation foiled by DRI officials, she was to get around Rs 4.8 lakh. According to police, she delivered seven consignments before her luck finally ran out.
Her father retired at a senior position in an insurance firm whereas her father-in-law is a retired defence official. After clearing her Class XII exams six years ago, Kulshrestha had joined the aviation industry.