A Bhutanese man was caught red-handed at the Bangkok International Airport with USD 450,000, way beyond the amount allowed. Not many knew about the incident as it was hushed up and the Thai media had not covered it.

There is an investigation going on and we will soon know, if information is shared, of how it happened. The news comes as a shock, especially when the man in question is a staff member of Druk Air. Without clear information, many became suspicious of how an individual could hoodwink security at the Paro airport and manage to smuggle out a huge amount of USD. 

What we all know is that foreign currency regulations stipulate that any foreign currency equivalent to or exceeding USD 10,000 must be declared to customs upon departure or arrival. This was not done, giving reasons to people to suspect that it was planned or a coordinated racket involving other employees.

The doubts become legit because it is impossible for an ordinary person to take more than 10,000 USD without declaring. That the huge wad of cash is concealed in the box of a whisky, served in the aircraft, indicates collusion or a well-planned smuggling racket.

What is more concerning is the breach of security at the international airport by its own people. It is a blatant breach of security. It may be US dollars today, it can be anything tomorrow. It can happen when officials trusted to secure the airport are involved. 

For the record, the International Civil Aviation Organisation has already red-flagged Bhutan for lack of effective safety implementations. Smuggling money or gold may not threaten the safety of the aircraft or its navigation services, but it could dent the reputation of the airline.

When it comes to security, international airports are known to have the tightest security apparatus. The frequent cases of smuggling through the only international airport do not reflect nicely on the country. Many are drawing conclusions that without a network or connections, such outrageous acts will not be conducted. If it is the case, it will draw the attention of the ICAO. Bhutan, in terms of safety, is already compared with Eritrea, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan. Smuggling in kilograms of gold or hundreds of thousands of USD may not spell threat, but it is a going concern.

What happened recently and in the past is an indication of misuse of power, position or authority. Kuensel learnt that the wife of the man works with the catering services. If they collude, there is not much security apparatus could do. And it takes some courage to smuggle out USD 450,000 when the country is crying for hard currency. 

The accused, it is said, is out on bail. This had given reasons for people to suspect a larger network. What we need to do is tighten the security of the only international airport. Smuggling cases so far had involved officials mandated to prevent it. 

Perhaps, it is time we give the security aspect to the Royal Bhutan Police. If not, the need for a better strategy has become crucial.