Times of India: Nagpur: Monday, March 06, 2017.
A Right to Information (RTI) query by activist Abhay Kolarkar revealed that goods worth Rs5.25crore, mostly gold, were seized from 49 people by customs officials at Nagpur airport in the last five years. During the same period, custom duty worth Rs 4.36cr was recovered from 3,605 passengers.
Kolarkar had sought the information from the chief commissioner of customs and excise (air custom unit) on February 2, 2017. He had sought information regarding seizure of goods and recovery of custom duty among other issues from January 1, 2012 to January 31, 2017.
While the department has answered most of his queries, it is silent on how many persons managed to escape after evading custom duty.
Kolarkar had sought details about custom duty levied on goods imported through the Nagpur airport, number of passengers who paid the duty, numbers of violators, estimated value of seized goods, cases pending in court, number of violators jailed, seized gold and silver deposited with the maalkhana and when the maximum custom duty was recovered between the above period.
In its reply, the department stated that custom duty worth Rs4,36,32,204 was recovered from 3,605 air travellers. The details show that the highest duty paid was Rs1,23,66,357 by 844 people between April 1, 2016 and January 1, 2017. The lowest recovery was Rs50,36,575 from 1009 between April 1, 2012, and March, 31, 2013.
On the seizure of goods, it stated that goods worth Rs5,25,79,747 was recovered from 49 violators in the last five years. The period between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2013, saw highest recovery of Rs1,83,85,066 from 7 violators. The articles included gold jewellery and Indian currency notes. Surprisingly, gold worth Rs21,46,851 was recovered from lone offender between April 1, 2016 and March 3, 2017, though it accounts for the lowest recovery.
However, the department refused to divulge details about the seized goods kept in maalkhana citing their security under section 8(1) (e) and (j) of the RTI Act.
Kolarkar had also sought details about customs staff deployed at the airport. The department replied that two assistant commissioners, nine chief officers, 12 inspectors, two head constables, and two drivers are posted with the air customs unit.
Kolarkar said, "Until now, we didn't know what was happening at Nagpur airport. Often, I saw four or five officials there but there was no information about customs. The seizure of goods worth Rs5crore indicate that Nagpur airport can't be neglected and officials need to keep a tight vigil. At Mumbai, more offenders are caught regularly. My query proved that people do attempt to evade custom duty through the Nagpur airport."