India hounds Customs cargo crooks

INDIA is continuing to pursue corruption in the country’s Customs houses. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which arrested seven Customs officials and three freight forwarders in March, has now tracked the rot to apparently high-ranking Customs officers and is moving in to make further arrests.

“Our investigations are leading us to top officials. We are scrutinising documents seized from the arrested officials that have given us leads on some top officers,” a CBI officer involved in the case said.

“The bribes were given to facilitate the clearance of receipts of import, duty refund and even receiving bills for the consignment arrival,” he added. “In many cases, the importers were even unaware that the agents were charging them extra money.”

Last month, the CBI discovered that an authorised signatory of an Ahmedabad-based freight forwarding company paid huge bribes between July and October last year to obtain clearance of import-export consignments. Charges of bribery have been registered against seven Customs officials in Gujarat, including superintendents and inspectors, and the signatory two of the freight forwarding company’s employees.

The customs officials who have been identified are KC Suresh, Akhil Barot and Chandubhai Kalal from Air Cargo at Ahmedabad, OP Pandey from Mundra port, and Devendra Sagwan and NB Chaudhry from Surat.

“A deep-rooted corruption network exists, wherein some Custom house agents and a few individuals regularly pay bribes to officials based on clearances of consignments.”

However, a source reveals that the CBI case is only the tip of the iceberg and that there is little evidence to successfully prosecute the many others suspected of being involved throughout the country.

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