CBI initiates probe into smuggling of substandard betel/areca nuts of Indonesian origin

The CBI has registered a case against unknown officials of the Central Excise and Customs for allegedly allowing the smuggling of substandard betel/areca nuts of Indonesian origin, leading to evasion of ₹15,000 crore of Customs Duty annually.

The case has been instituted on the Bombay High Court’s directive with respect to a PIL alleging that substandard, unsafe and unfit betel/areca nuts were being smuggled in by unscrupulous traders in connivance with the Customs officials, based on forged certificates of origin, undervalued invoices and fake clearance certificates.

The suspects are taking advantage of the huge Customs Duty concessions under the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) and the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreements. The Duty applicable on import of betel nut originating from member countries is 13% as against 113% levied in case of non-member countries.

It is alleged that the illegal imports are purportedly facilitated by fake entities registered in India, Indonesia and the SAARC countries. Rotten betel nuts are also imported under the guise of cashew peels to evade lab test.

In June 2016, 23 wagons of substandard and hazardous betel nuts were intercepted at the Itwari railway station in Nagpur. In 2017, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had detected four cases where betel nut consignments were smuggled allegedly via Indo-Myanmar border. In one case, 106.11 metric tonnes were seized and in another 109.273 metric tonnes were found. Two other cases involved 81.42 and 40 metric tonnes.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 10:43:10 PM |

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