INDIA. Mumbai: Five persons were arrested, and over 1.07 crore foreign-origin cigarette sticks worth Rs 24 crore were seized from a container at Nhava Sheva Port near Navi Mumbai by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Saturday.
The container was supposed to be trans-shipped to the “Arshiya Free Trade Warehousing Zone (FTWZ)” at Panvel in Raigad district. However, it was diverted to a private godown. The plan was to remove the cigarettes from the container and replace them with goods declared in import documents with a view to hoodwink customs authorities’ attention, the DRI statement read.
The 40-feet container was stuffed with foreign-origin cigarettes, which are banned for import into India due to their non-compliance with Indian standards, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence said in a release.
The DRI intercepted the container at the godown, which was already stocked with the declared goods, which were supposed to be stuffed in the container after removing the cigarettes before the container was taken into Arshiya FTZ.
The contraband included 1.07 lakh sticks of popular brands like Esse, Dunhill lights, Gudang Garam, and Mond lights. Similarly, in a follow-up operation, another stash of 13 lakh cigarettes of foreign origin smuggled earlier by the same syndicate was seized from another godown.
These brands are in great demand, and during the Covid-induced lock, the demand was at its peak. During those days, the banned cigarette sticks worth Rs 30 crore were banned from Nhava Sheva.
The cigarettes are generally smuggled from countries like China, Malaysia, South Korea
and Indonesia to evade taxes and sell them in major cities. Whereas cigarettes produced and packed in India have to adhere to specified health warnings, both in pictorial and text formats, to discourage smokers.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA) is the principal comprehensive law governing tobacco control in India.
The smuggling syndicates have been smuggling contraband misusing SEZ and FTWZ schemes which leads to a loss of revenue.