Bench refuses to quash notices to oil importers

Staff Reporter

Oil importers evade Rs.1.96 crore towards customs duty

4 edible oil importers evaded duty by producing fake licences from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Investigations revealed that both firms had vacated their offices

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has refused to quash show cause notices issued to four edible oil importers at Tuticorin for evading customs duty to the tune of Rs.1.96 crore by producing fake licences from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Petitions dismissed

Dismissing their writ petitions through a common order, Justice T. Raja said that the Customs officials might not be able to investigate the case further and recover the public money if the oil importers were allowed to go scot-free.

According to the petitioners, they were manufacturers of RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorised) palm oil.

Their requirements were generally met by imports from Malaysia and Indonesia through the Tuticorin Port.

They purchased transferable DEPB (Duty Entitlement Pass Book) licences from two firms based at Kanpur through a reputed agent in Tuticorin.

Issued by the Director General of Foreign Trade, these licences could be produced in lieu of duty.

The licences along with Transfer Release Advice and other shipping documents were presented by the petitioners through their Customs House Clearing Agent and the goods were cleared in January 2004 without payment of customs duty.

For verification

After six months, the customs officials sent the licences to the Inland Container Depot at Chakeri in Kanpur for verifying their genuineness.

Replying to it, Joint Director of Foreign Trade in Kanpur confirmed that the documents were forged.

Investigations conducted by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in Lucknow revealed that both the Kanpur firms had vacated their offices.

No clue

Enquiries with the neighbours did not provide any clue about the owners of the firms.

Initially, the Customs officials issued individual demand notices to the four importers to pay the duty they evaded.

The move was challenged before the High Court on the ground that a demand could not be made without issuing show cause notices.

Meanwhile, the petitioners were issued with show cause notices.

Hence, the petitioners withdrew the earlier writ petitions and filed the present petitions on the ground that the notices were not issued within the statutory period of six months.

Due to interim stay

Pointing out that the delay in issuing show cause notices had been caused due to the interim stay obtained by the petitioners in the earlier writ petitions, the Judge said: “The petitioners cannot be allowed to take advantage of limitation.”