DRI seizes 56 tons of foreign origin black pepper in Bengal

Kolkata (IANS) Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized 56 tonnes of black pepper of foreign origin worth Rs 3.92 crore in West Bengal as a part of the crackdown on attempts by organised syndicates to smuggle the Nepal-bound goods into India, an official said on Wednesday.

“Two containers were seized containing high valued black pepper imported from Singapore in the guise of goods declared as plywood. The total value of the seizure of 56 tonnes of black pepper of Indonesian origin comes to Rs 3.92 crore, a DRI official said.

Nepal, being a landlocked country, sources its imports through different ports of India under the provisions of the Indo-Nepal Treaty on Trade and Transit.

Under this treaty, several ports are earmarked by the Central government to handle such Nepal-bound cargo.

These containerized cargos are sealed by Indian Customs to ensure safe passage through India. The transit routes from the landing port to the Nepal border points are also chalked out so that the goods would follow the defined route and reach Nepal without posing any threat to the Indian economy.

In this case, it is seen that high-value black pepper of foreign origin was loaded in the containers coming from Singapore, instead of the declared cargo of plywood of Indonesian origin, a DRI official said, adding that all the documents accompanying the consignment declare 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.

The Customs Transit Declaration, a document required for transport of the sealed containers upto the Nepal border point was 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, Jogbani.

DRI officers found one of the containers along with its carrier vehicle in Howrah, which is clearly not on the defined route.

“The container with the trailer truck entered into a godown where the original imported black pepper was off-loaded from the container, and the container was re-stuffed with Indian made plywood. This was done in a novel way without tampering the Indian Customs seal,” the agency said.

The second container was also to enter the same godown, but after DRI intercepted the first one, the second container was offloaded from the carrying vehicle and abandoned in a dumping area for the containers, it said.

“The investigations are underway,” the official said.

According to the agency, it is apparent that “a syndicate is actually involved in smuggling of black pepper into India without paying the customs duty.”

“It is also seen from records available that a lot of high value consumer goods used to be imported in the name of Nepal imports and later diverted without payment of appropriate customs duty,” the official added.

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