Rs17-crore imported cigarettes seized in Navi Mumbai, 2 held

Vijay Kumar Yadav
Acting on specific inputs, DRI officials intercepted a 40-feet container at a godown in Taloja, in Navi Mumbai, on Tuesday.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized smuggled, foreign-origin cigarettes worth Rs 17 crore on February 5 and arrested two people involved in a cigarette-smuggling racket. According to DRI officials, this is one of the largest cigarette seizures in recent times.

Acting on specific inputs, DRI officials intercepted a 40-feet container at a godown in Taloja, in Navi Mumbai, on Tuesday. The container was from Dubai and its destination was Aurangabad inland container depot (ICD).

Inside, 650 master cartons were recovered, containing clove cigarettes of the Indonesian brand Gudang Garam.

When the DRI team raided the godown, the cigarettes were being replaced with declared cargo. The market value of the seized cigarettes is estimated at Rs 17 crore. Gudang Garam is a popular brand among Indian smokers, according to the DRI. In October 2017, the agency seized Rs 6.92 crore worth Gudang Garam cigarettes. During the raid, officials arrested Ranjay Kumar and Rajeev Kumar, and detained two others for questioning. The accused were arrested under relevant sections of the Customs Act. The DRI officials are looking for another man, Manish, who is from Cyprus but is operating from Dubai. According to the DRI, he is the mastermind of the racket.

Explaining the modus operandi, a DRI official said the container containing the cigarettes came from Dubai where the smugglers took advantage of the free trade zone. It was to be offloaded at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai and would then be transported by road to Aurangabad.

Before it reached the ICD in Aurangabad, where customs officers would check the seal and consignment, the syndicate would replace the smuggled cargo of cigarettes with cartons of wash basins, the declared imported cargo. Both the original broken seal and the duplicate seal were recovered from the premises, according to the DRI.

Although the wash basins were marked as ‘Made in China’, it was found that they were domestically procured in Navi Mumbai. The markings were intended to mislead customs officials into thinking the wash basins were imported. The accused told the DRI during interrogation that around two weeks ago, they’d carried out a ‘trial run’ by smuggling 45 cartons of cigarettes in the same way. When this was successful, the 650 master cartons were smuggled in.