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Wednesday Mar 11 2020
Web Desk

Airport official accused of extorting Australian journalist Dennis Freedman arrested

Web Desk

An airport immigration official accused of seeking a bribe from Australian journalist Dennis Freedman has been arrested after Prime Minister Imran Khan himself intervened took up the case. 

After departing Pakistan, where he had been covering the Pakistan Super League and experiencing the country, Freedman had uploaded a small video on social media from Melbourne, Australia describing his run-in with an unscrupulous immigration officer at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport.

Describing the incident as ‘the bad side of Pakistan’, the sports journalist, who has a large following in the country, recounted that a 'plainclothes official' had helped him jump the immigration line and then asked for whatever money he had in his wallet.

"I was going through the immigration, and while I was in the line, some guy — a plain-clothed officer — walked up to me and offered me to take me to the quick lane," he recounted in the video. 

"That was the 'gora' [white] card kicking in," he said, perhaps referring to the 'special treatment' people of Caucasian heritage sometimes enjoy in Pakistan. 

"It was a long line so I took advantage of it. In two seconds, my passport was stamped. Then he walks me through the airport lounge, sits me down and then asks me for money," he narrated.

Freedman alleged that, upon insistence, he handed the money over to the official.

The journalist acknowledged that it was only a few dollars worth of rupees that he had on him at the time, which he handed over himself, but also that he regretted doing so as he considered it corruption.

Freedman had said he had not wanted the airport official to give him any trouble, and added that next time, he will report such behavior to anti-corruption authorities.

"I don't want this guy sacked. I don't want him to get in trouble. What I do want is some education. I made a mistake but the best way to deal with this would have been if I had held my ground and said no," he said.

He also told his Pakistani fans to "please stop apologising or feeling embarrassed by this guy's behaviour. It wasn't you who did it."

Action taken upon PM Imran’s directives

Following the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan took up the matter with the relevant officials in the Civil Aviation Authority.

The officials began an investigation and, with the help of CCTV footage, successfully tracked down the suspect.

The officials said that they have suspended the entry pass issued to the suspect, who apparently works for a private company operating within the airport's CIP Lounge.