CBI Inspects Air Cargo Complex In Thiruvananthapuram International Airport

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   (2012-07-14 00:00:00)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on Friday, inspected the Air Cargo complex at the international airport here and set aside three large consignments of goods cleared by the Customs Department for further inspection.

Official sources said the inspection was also to find out whether Customs officials had deliberately undervalued the imports to give undue pecuniary advantage to the importers.

Each of the consignments, all marked as unaccompanied baggage, weigh 1,500 kg each. The CBI will inspect the consignments on Saturday.

Earlier, the CBI had found that “door-to-door,” an informal courier system widely relied on by Gulf-based migrant workers to send packages home at lesser rates than that of air cargo, was used to smuggle expensive goods into the State in trade quantities.

Last July, it had intercepted four such consignments, allegedly cleared by the Customs without properly assessing the value of the imports, outside the unaccompanied baggage section of the Air Cargo Complex at the airport here.

The CBI had also detained a tout who cleared the consignments. On the basis of his statement, it had searched the houses of several Customs enforcers who allegedly facilitated the lucrative racket for financial gain.

Customs and Central Excise department officials say that household items, expensive video game consoles, and latest television sets, which attract a high import duty and are in great demand in the State, form the bulk of illegal door-to-door imports.

They say black market retailers import such goods by fraudulently availing themselves of the Customs duty concession offered to non-resident Indians to bring home “used household items of no commercial value” under the Transfer of Residence (TR) norms. The smugglers import the goods in the name of low-paid migrant workers who have recently returned from the Gulf.

They use the passports of such persons to get their consignments cleared by the Customs. They pay the passport holders, who are mere ‘name lenders,’ a small commission for their troubles.

The smugglers also avoid paying the actual import duty by wrongly declaring the contents of the consignment.

For instance, they can declare a brand new television as used one to evade paying duty. A typical door-to-door consignment weighs up to 2,000 kg. Sources say latest electronic items are hidden amidst the parcels, and the consignment is often shown on record as containing only second-hand household goods.