Cargo worth Rs. 48.41 crore was smuggled last fiscal

The crackdown launched by sleuths of the Tuticorin Custom House on cargo smuggling has resulted in a sharp rise in cases.

Since the Special Intelligence and Investigation Branch (SIIB) of the Customs Department mounted vigil, the anti-smuggling unit here recorded 159 cases during 2013-14, whereas only 41 cases were booked against smugglers during 2012-13, according to Additional Commissioner of Customs N.J. Kumaresh.

Cargo worth Rs. 48.41 crore was smuggled last fiscal, which also saw an import duty evasion of Rs. 13.56 crore. During 2012-13, the duty evasion stood at Rs. 3.38 crore.

Six smugglers during 2013-14 and five during the previous fiscal were arrested, Mr. Kumaresh told The Hindu on Sunday.

The seized goods smuggled through the seaport here were R 22 gas, a banned item that causes depletion of the ozone layer, bottles of Korean liquor, iron scrap, fabrics, galvanised iron wire, timber logs and narcotics. Such goods were often mis-declared and concealed in containers to evade duty. To prevent such unlawful activities, all container freight stations were being monitored.

The installation of weigh bridges in 13 container freight stations and the inland container depot became mandatory. Over the last year, all these stations were equipped with infrastructure.

A mobile gamma rays scanner was installed on April 4 to scan containers. A fixed scanner facility was expected to be ready by September. These would help in detection of cargo smuggling, Mr. Kumaresh said.

Ten officials in the rank of Superintendent were trained in container scanning by radiation safety officers as per the guidelines of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, he said.

Assistant Commissioner of Customs D. Ranjith Kumar, when contacted, said the anti-smuggling mechanism had been strengthened. SIIB sleuths had frequently been visiting the cargo-handling locations and verifying cargo manifests.

Besides, new importers and their agencies were being identified and monitored. Investigations revealed that many exporters produced fake pre-shipment inspection certificates, which must be obtained from the Directorate- General of Foreign Trade. Mostly, those who were exporting metal scrap and paper waste were found violating the norms.

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