Mumbai: A person who is allegedly involved in a fraud case of Rs 1.32 crore is roaming free, even as bank guarantees have gone missing from the Customs department’s custody.
Altaf Shaikh of Nafia Collections, an importer of cosmetics and make up kits, had in 2017 received a show cause notice from the customs department about the difference in import duty with regard to the import of four containers of cosmetics from China, Shaikh said in a complaint to police.
Shaikh took out three bank gurantees with Canara bank
Shaikh challenged the show cause notice, following which customs officials asked him to provide bank guarantees, by way of security, pending the resolution of the dispute, he said. Accordingly, he took out three bank guarantees for Rs 35.10 lakh, Rs 30.55 lakh, and Rs 66.61 lakh with Canara Bank's main branch at Fort.
In 2018, when the bank guarantees were maturing, Vicky Ajmera and Apurva Mehta of Transco Shipping, who are custom house clearing agents, told Shaikh that they need to be renewed, he contended.
Shaikh said that he gave Ajmera and Mehta three cheques totalling Rs 1.32 crore for the renewal of the bank guarantees.
Cheques were encashed and money was transferred without Shaikh’s knowledge
However, a current account was was opened in the Abdul Rehman Road branch of Canara Bank in the name of Nafia Collections without Shaikh’s knowledge and the cheques were encashed and the money transferred to the account of Transco Shipping, he alleged.
Shaikh said the signature of the customs commissioner might have been forged by the accused as without a no-objection certificate from the commissioner the bank guarantees cannot be revoked or encashed.
Case was registered at MRA Marg Police station, one was arrested
A case of cheating and misappropriation of funds was registered with MRA Marg Police and Mehta was arrested on January 1, 2023. “Legally, Customs should have filed a complaint because the theft of bank guarantee documents were from the custody of Customs at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust,” a senior Customs House official said on condition of anonymity.
Customs Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch Joint Commissioner Tarique Mabood did not respond to calls, mails, and whatsapp queries about the bank guarantees going missing from the custody of the Customs department. “It is shocking that bank guarantees that supposed to be in the safe custody of Customs were encashed by an outsider and no red flags were raised over the missing bank guarantees for more than four years,” said a police officer at MRA Marg Police station, who is part of the team investigating the case.
MRA Marg Police have asked Customs officials to provide details of the case. “Customs have sought a week to respond," a police official told The Free Press Journal.
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