NIA investigates immunity granted to UAE consulate consignments

Sarith, the main accused in the gold smuggling case (wearing green mask), being brought to an apartment complex near the Secretariat on Tuesday to gather evidence in the case. S Mahinsha   | Photo Credit: S MAHINSHA

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has reportedly evinced interest in finding out how the accused in the gold smuggling case had repeatedly obtained immunity from Customs “examination and assessment” of air cargo consignments they had imported from Dubai in the name of the UAE consulate here during the 2019-21 period.

Customs officials reportedly told the NIA that shipments addressed to diplomatic missions rarely came under the scanner of the Customs Risk Management System (CRMS). The CRMS allowed countries to exchange information on illicit trade and the likely movement of contraband via air, land, and sea.

Moreover, officials pointed out that any “foreign representation” in the country could import goods below the value of ₹20 lakh without the prior approval of the “Protocol Special Section” of the Union Minister of External Affairs and the State Protocol Officers. Such consignments would rarely come in the “queue” of shipments assigned for scrutiny by the Customs at air, land, or sea border checkpoints.

Customs officials said they believed that the accused had forestalled Customs inspection by parcelling contraband gold in consignments of everyday goods of minimal value. They conducted dry runs and graduated to the bulk import of gold illegally.

In a parallel bid to find whether any entity had abetted the smuggling operation, the Customs on Tuesday sought details of duty exemption certificates granted by the State Protocol Officer to the UAE consulate during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 period.

Investigators have also asked the details of the consulate officials or their nominees who had sought duty exemption certificates from State government. They had also sought the specimen signatures of UAE diplomats who worked in the consulate during the period the accused had committed the crime.

The Customs issued the notice under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962. The State Protocol Officer has to provide the documents by post or in person before August 20. Non-compliance with the directive will entail prosecution under Sections 193 and 198 of the Indian Penal Code, the notice received by the Joint Secretary, General Administration Department, from the Customs Department said.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 7:26:02 PM |

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