MUMBAI: Singer Mika, who is the brother of Daler Mehndi, was arrested by customs officials at Mumbai airport on Wednesday as he was in possession of US currency over the limit allowed for incoming passengers.
Anyone coming into India with over $5,000 has to declare it on the declaration form which is filled upon landing at airports.
But Mika was in possession of $12,000 in cash and he could not explain its source. Customs officials said the singer also had Rs 3 lakh on him when he landed at the airport.
Later, the 35-year-old singer clarified, “I had 10,000 dollars (USD Ten thousand) with me while returning to India after my international concert. According to the rules, only 1,000 dollars per person are allowed. As normal procedure, while traveling internationally, we take Indian currency that we exchange for dollars and distribute a certain amount to each member of the band as traveling expense, so that incase they are stranded at the airport alone by chance, they should have appropriate amount of dollars to be able to take care of themselves, buy food, call home, buy woolens and stay in a hotel room in an emergency in a foreign land.’’
He said, “This amount, I usually distribute amongst the band players while traveling. But due to the hectic schedule the dollars stayed with me as I was unable to distribute it to the band after getting off at the airport.”
The bhangra star said the airport authorities were right in asking about it. “We explained our side, showed them relevant receipts and paper work for the same. They asked us to follow certain procedures prescribed in their rule books for such cases and I did as I was asked to, as per the laws. Then everyone clicked pictures with me and I returned home.”
Jokingly he added,“It’s a little embarrassing to be caught with only 10,000 dollars, if you must get caught, it should be like Rahat, with a large stash. Some time back I was made to pay 1.5 lakh for a watch that I had been wearing for ages! As per rules you do not put duty on used items, but someone there didn’t allow it and instead of creating a scene I simply paid and walked off. It never made news.’’
Perhaps angry at his treatment, Mika said he has performed at the Custom officials bash last year. “I will sing for them again! Of course, when they approach you to perform for their big events they tell you to waive off your performance fee, which I have done, their families surround you for pictures. Then at the airport sometimes one odd official will try to look very strict and ask ‘so what do you do, what song have you sung?’ And I feel like asking him to play the video of the customs bash to perhaps get reminded of what songs I have sung! I don’t run to the media to report small things. But yesterday someone wanted to speak to the press over a small procedural matter and that’s all right too. One has to live with these things.’’