Kolkata: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seized black pepper worth Rs 3.92 crore smuggled to India from Singapore.
The commodity was mis-declared as plywood, to be sent to Nepal via India under the provisions of the Indo-Nepal Treaty on Trade and Transit, according to an official statement issued on Wednesday. Acting on inputs, DRI officials seized from a godown here two containers carrying 56 metric ton of black pepper, it said.
Explaining the modus operandi, a DRI official said that the black pepper was smuggled in from Singapore for its illegal sale and consumption in India. "A syndicate, which is being probed in this case, would swap the goods with other items. Ultimately, the goods would be downloaded in Indian market and wouldn't reach Nepal. Even if they are taken to Nepal, they come back in some or the other way. Usually the goods are grossly mis-declared," he said.
Nepal, being a landlocked country, sources its imports through different sea ports of India under the provisions of the treaty. Several sea ports are earmarked by the government of India to handle Nepal-bound cargo. These containerised cargo are sealed with Indian customs seal to ensure safe passage through India. The transit routes from the landing port to Nepal border points are also chalked out, so that the goods would follow the defined route and reach Nepal without posing any economic threat to the Indian economy.
In this case, it is seen that high-valued black pepper of foreign origin was loaded in the containers coming from Singapore, instead of the declared cargo of plywood of Indonesia origin, the DRI said in the statement.
All the documents accompanying the consignment declared it as plywood. As these containers are not supposed to be opened and checked by Indian customs, everything was processed on the basis of documents only, it said.
The customs transit declaration, a document required for transport of the sealed containers upto the Nepal border point, were also issued stipulating the routes which would be taken by the carrying vehicles. In this case, the stipulated route was through Dunlop Bridge, Barrackpore, Krishna Nagar, Malda, Raiganj, Dalkhola, Purnia, Araria, Forbesganj and Jogbani.
DRI officers found one of the containers along with its carrier vehicle in Howrah, which is clearly not on the defined route. Furthermore, the container with the trailer truck entered into a godown where the original imported load of black pepper was off-loaded from the container and the container was re-stuffed with Indian-made plywood, the statement said.
This was done in a novel way without tampering the Indian customs seal.
The second container was also to enter the same godown, but after DRI intercepted the first one, the second container was off-loaded from the carrying vehicle and abandoned in a dumping area of the containers. However, the second container and the carrying vehicle were also located by the DRI sleuths and on examination of the second container, foreign origin black pepper was also found loaded in the said container, while the description was that of plywood. This container could not be substituted because of the interception of the first one.
It is apparent that a syndicate is actually involved into smuggling of black pepper into India without paying the customs duty at a high rate of which is otherwise payable if imported into India, the DRI said. It is also seen from the records available, that lots of high value consumer goods used to be imported in the name of Nepal imports and later diverted without payment of appropriate customs duty, it said.