DRI gets important clues following seizure of precious cargo in port area. The initial needle of suspicion pointed towards the collaboration between the smugglers and Central Excise officials, as the container was declared as ‘factory stuffed’ with the seal of the Central Excise.

The red sanders smuggling case appears to be getting murkier with each passing day. Though, the police are yet to make a major breakthrough in the case where a container was seized while offloading the precious cargo onto a lorry near Gokul theatre in the city last Wednesday, there are important clues in the case where the sleuths of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had seized a container in the port area a couple of days earlier.

According to sources in the DRI, an employee of a Customs House Agent (CHA) has been picked up for allegedly forging the signature of a senior Central Excise official.

Last week DRI sleuths had seized a container loaded with about 26 tonnes of red sanders, valued at about Rs.12 crore, at a private container terminal, when it was about to be loaded onto a Hong Kong bound ship.

The initial needle of suspicion pointed towards the collaboration between the smugglers and Central Excise officials, as the container was declared as ‘factory stuffed’ with the seal of the Central Excise.

The shipping bill was also signed by the officials stating that the container was loaded with granite slabs and was being exported from a factory in Srikakulam. On a tip off, the DRI officials conducted the raid and the contraband came to light.

As per sources in the DRI, in reality, the red sanders were loaded into the container at a load point at Autonagar in Visakhapatnam and the employee of a CHA firm in Visakhapatnam had allegedly forged the signature of the Central Excise official and even had duplicated the seal. Sources said the employee had admitted to the offence and stated that he would charge a couple of lakh rupees per signature.

Normally ‘factory stuffed’ containers with Central Excise seal are not checked and allowed to be shipped and that is how it has gone so close to shipment, said a senior Custom officer.

But the question here is how did the red sanders from Chittoor get into Autonagar and how many times in the past did the employee forge the signature? And most importantly is it that easy to forge signatures and duplicate seals, or is there something more to it.