The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday seized over 289 metric tonnes of sub-standard betel nuts/areca nuts worth ₹11.5 crore following raids on 17 official and residential locations of traders in Mumbai and Nagpur. The ED also seized ₹16.5 lakh cash.
It’s alleged that the traders smuggled below-par produce from Indonesia through the Myanmar border and claimed that it originated from member countries of South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) and South Asia Free Trading Agreement (SAFTA).
The agency’s case stems from a First Information Report filed in March 2021, wherein it was alleged that a well-organised syndicate of suppliers, commission agents, logistic providers, transporters, hawala operators and buyers – in connivance with various public servants – were involved in the multi-crore racket.
Agency officials said the suspects used “fake” certificates of origin and bogus and under-valued bills/invoices to evade Customs duty. “Fabricated” domestic invoices were made and smuggled betel nuts were brought to Nagpur and Gondia districts of Maharashtra, the agency said. A total of 130 ED officers participated in the action.
One warehouse in Nagpur could not supply the KYC of traders who deposited the betel nut and failed to furnish any supporting documentation like stock register, bills, invoices, quality certificate, transport documents etc.
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