Mississauga grandmother arrested for arms smuggling in India
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
A Mississauga grandmother visiting family in India has been arrested and charged with arms smuggling after authorities in Mumbai say they found live ammunition in her luggage.
Irene Mathias, 59, would seem to be an unlikely arms smuggler. She works with the Canada Revenue Agency in an administrative position, volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society and is a regular churchgoer, her son Trayson Mathias said.
“She’s a woman who loves her church, volunteering in her community and cooking for her family,” he told the Star in a phone interview from North Carolina. “She’s been in hell, sitting in a jail there.”
Mathias was preparing to return to Canada after a two-week visit when she was arrested July 16 at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. She was jailed for three days and had her passport seized.
Out on bail, she is now staying with family in the Mumbai area.
“I first heard about this Thursday morning when I got a call from my dad, Paul, saying my mom was detained at the airport in India,” Trayson Mathias said. “None of it makes sense. We have no idea how ammunition got into her luggage. She’s probably never bought any bullets in her life.”
Between 36 and 38 rounds of ammunition were found in his mother’s luggage, authorities told her. Trayson Mathias said she later identified the bags, but not the bullets, as hers.
Police later told Irene Mathias’s husband that the ammunition found in his wife’s luggage was .22 long-range Dynamit Nobel, rounds that were made in Germany for a rifle.
When police asked her where the bullets could have come from, Mathias, grasping at straws, wondered if it belonged to her daughter Charlene, who lives in Ottawa and has a hunting licence. The family has since confirmed that Charlene has never owned that kind of ammunition.
An employee at Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Shop in Toronto said the ammunition is primarily used for target practice. “It’s pretty widely available to anyone with a firearms licence,” said the employee, Andy, who did not want to provide his last name.
The charges against Mathias have not been proven, and a court date in her case has not yet been set, her son said.
If Mathias acquired the ammunition in India, she would have been risking a potentially stern prison sentence to bring back ammunition widely available in Canada.
If the bullets belonged to her daughter, who left them in her luggage, that would mean they evaded detection at Pearson airport when she left on July 1, at a stopover and in Mumbai, where bags are screened both on arrival and departure.
Trayson Mathias said the charges against his mother are serious, but it’s unclear the kind of jail sentence she might face if convicted. He said the family has been unable to determine the exact charges against her.
A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs told the Star: “Canadian officials are providing consular assistance to a Canadian citizen in India and are in contact with the appropriate authorities to gather information.”