Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Corrupt customs officials had single-window clearance system

Ahmedabad: The corrupt customs officials had set up an unofficial single-window clearance system. They even had a regular bribe rate card. The exporters and importers paid hefty money to them to save crores of rupees in customs duty, which would be due in case the items and value were reported correctly.
This is the story that has emerged from the CBI investigations into the multicrore bribery racket that links customs officials, exporters, importers and custom house agents in Gujarat. The elan with which the seven customs officials managed their unholy nexus to get bribe from custom house agents and traders has surprised CBI officials.
Around 30 premises, including residences of 11 customs officials and offices of Mumbai-based custom house agent (CHA) Khimji Poonja Freight Forwarder Pvt Ltd were surveyed by CBI on Tuesday. CBI later filed graft complaints against seven officials and three employees of CHA.
“They worked as a team whose captain was changed every month. The process helped the custom agents, who had to deal with just one officer irrespective of the nature of favour required. So be it Mundra port or Ahmedabad ICD or Surat, the captain got the illicit work done in seconds the network of tainted officials at all the key locations,” said a CBI official. The professionally-managed corruption network has pointed fingers towards senior customs officials in Gujarat, who are believed to be providing cover to this unholy nexus.
“The amount to be paid as bribe for a particular job was known to custom house agents and the team’s captain use to receive it through his men and later disburse it to others. The confidence with which this ra-cket operated suggests involvement of senior customs officials. The picture would only get clear during further investigations,” the official added.
Sources also said that CBI has found several documents suggesting the illicit role of more than 10 other custom house agents operating in Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Surat and Mundra.

17L cash recovered from Surat official

CBI has recovered Rs 17 lakh unaccounted cash from Surat customs inspector Devendra Sagwan. He had attempted to burn the currency notes using whisky when he found the CBI team at his doorstep in Adajan. CBI has also found that most of the seven accused officials have invested heavily into real estate and are owners of two to three houses. TNN

Customs staff always on CBI radar

In the last few months, many corrupt customs and excise officials have been unmasked. In recent cases of illegal exports of peacock feathers and red sanders wood, several customs officers have been transferred. In the overvaluation detected last month during export of fish maw at Kandla port, two officials were transferred and one went underground. TNN

Five-day remand for accused

A CBI court on Wednesday sent nine people, including six customs officials, to five-day custodial interrogation till March 14. Designated judge SH Vora granted CBI’s remand application partially after the investigating agency claimed that it was yet to recover certain documents and money, which forms part of illegal transactions.

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