The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on December 3 seized unaccounted betel nut of 289.57 MTs valued at roughly 11.5 crore from Mumbai and Nagpur.
The agency searched 17 commercial- and residential areas in Mumbai and Nagpur for those involved in smuggling of betel nuts of Indonesian origin, smuggled mostly via Indo-Myanmar Border.
During the searches at offices and residential areas, the godown owner could not supply the ‘know your customer’ details of the traders who deposited the betel nut and failed to furnish any supporting documentation such as stock register, bills, invoices, quality certificate, transport documents etc. The agency ED has seized ₹16.5 lakh in cash and various incriminating documents and digital devices.
The Central agency initiated the investigation on the basis of a First Information Report by the Central Bureau of Investigation dated March 5, 2021, under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and various Sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
It revealed that many Nagpur-based traders in connivance with various public servants, were indulged in smuggling of substandard betel nuts/areca nuts of Indonesian origin and falsely claiming the same to be originating from member countries of South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement and South Asia Free Trading Agreement. This was done by using fake certificates of origin, and by using bogus and undervalued bills/invoices and thus causing evasion payment of customs duty to the government.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had also investigated the illegal smuggling of betel nuts and issued eight show-cause notices. As per a press release by ED, “There is a well-organised syndicate of suppliers of Indonesian betel nut, commission agents, logistic providers, transporters, hawala operators and buyers who were smuggling Indonesian betel nut into India via Indo-Myanmar Border. Fabricated domestic invoices were made and transported smuggled betel nuts is brought to Nagpur and Gondia Districts of Maharashtra.”