Prior to the Onam festival season, the capital city seems to have emerged as a major transit route for contraband spirit from sugarcane growing regions in South India to central Kerala via Tamil Nadu, according to Excise Department officials.

They said much of the spirit passing through the district was bound for secret warehouses in Karthikapally, Kayamkulam, Mavelikara, Nooranadu, Chenganoor, and Pathanamthitta where it was being hoarded in advance for sale as toddy during the festival season.

(There were only a few licensed toddy outlets in the capital and hence the possibility of stocking illicit spirit in significant quantities in the city was remote.)

The district has 15 border check-posts with Tamil Nadu. Of these, 14 were categorised as minor ones and often manned by one Excise enforcer. The Excise has classified several of these minor check-posts as “sensitive and vulnerable to spirit smuggling”, including the one at Attipuram.

Sources said the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border was porous, with scores of unmapped byroads, lanes and pathways. Enforcers said two groups, one based in Kayamkulam and the other near Kaliakavila, profited most from the smuggling operations. They were backed by similar groups in Dindigal, Madurai, Tiruchi, Tirunelveli and Koyilpetti in Tamil Nadu. There were also several new entrants into the highly lucrative field.

These groups stocked the illicit spirit in warehouses in certain industrial areas in Tamil Nadu and smuggled it in relatively small quantities in specially altered vehicles into Kerala.

The racketeers often used several trucks of the same make and fitted with the same registration plate. They also used the same set of invoices and delivery notes to repeatedly import spirit, often concealed under consignments of perishable goods. (Investigators said only a fraction of the huge quantity of spirit smuggled into the State was actually intercepted.)

Excise officials said they would verify check-post entry and exit records and importer declaration forms to identify such vehicles.

Special teams would conduct surprise inspections at check-posts.

Vigilance committees, compromising police and Revenue officials and members of the neighbourhood watch, would be formed at the grassroots level to check the smuggling and sale of spirit. Foot and motorcycle patrols would cover the border areas.

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