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Updated: April 4, 2013 15:20 IST

Contraband haul from bus

Staff Reporter
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Electronic goods seized from the cargo hold of a luxury bus in the city on Wednesday. Photo: S. Gopakumar
The Hindu Electronic goods seized from the cargo hold of a luxury bus in the city on Wednesday. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Customs seizes goods worth lakhs of rupees from cargo hold of bus

The Customs and Central Excise Department on Wednesday seized contraband goods worth lakhs of rupees from the cargo hold of a luxury bus operating contract carriage services between Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai.

Official sources said Additional Commissioner Sophy M. Joy had received information that high-end electronic goods, smuggled into India from Hong Kong and Bangkok in the check-in baggage of a group of professional carriers, were regularly despatched to Chennai and Bangalore in long-distance buses from secret warehouses near the international airport here.

Her team, comprising of Customs Preventive Unit officers C. R. Chitra, Vasudevan Namboodiri and Seetha Raman, attempted to flag down an inter-State bus suspected to be carrying contraband items in bulk. The bus driver refused to stop the vehicle. The enforcers later intercepted it near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border check-post at Amaravila.

The enforcers said that they found 14 high-end LED televisions (46 and 40 inches), 1,000 branded T-shirts, 1,000 branded women’s wear, including tops and jeans, in the consignment.

The smugglers had sourced the televisions from south-east Asian markets and used ‘sparrows’ (the border enforcement agency’s phraseology for frequent flyers who travel to foreign destinations for the sole purpose of smuggling fast moving commercial goods into the country in relatively small quantities in their check-in baggage) to smuggle the electronic items into the country through the international airport here.

Enforcers said the duty difference on LED television assured the smugglers a minimum profit of Rs.10,000 on each set. They said the bus operator had no legal right to carry the consignment in the vehicle’s cargo hold.

The law is clear that only the luggage of passengers can be transported in the vehicle. However, no passenger has claimed the goods. The Customs are also verifying whether officials at the airport had accurately assessed the value of the goods and levied duty.

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