The Hyderabad unit of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Thursday busted a major racket after it intercepted five consignments of unaccompanied baggage (baggage shipped as cargo) of African nationals originating from Lagos Airport in Nigeria at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in the city.
"The goods were declared as edible food stuff and personal items and weighed around 10 tons. The total value of the consignment declared to customs was around Rs 1.3 lakh. On thorough inspection of baggage, the DRI officers found a variety of items, including noodles, cosmetics, palm oil, beef, dried fish, meat and beverages, including alcohol such as whiskey, beer, gin etc, in huge commercial quantity," the DRI said in a press release.
The authorities added that these items are not allowed to be imported as baggage as per the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 and Customs Act, 1962.
"The statements of the claimants revealed that they were grossly undervaluing the goods to evade the customs duty and also using the unaccompanied baggage to avoid regulatory permissions such as Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Plant Quarantine, Animal Quarantine, State Excise, Legal Metrology etc that are mandated for entry of goods into India," the DRI stated.
The authorities said that the commercial goods that were smuggled would then be sold in local markets at various cities across India.
The DRI officials also said that African nationals, who came to India, on either a tourist or medical visa, were found to be engaged in smuggling of unregulated food-related products into India.
"In some cases, the financier would book the consignment on any other person from Africa coming to India and claim the baggage to avoid suspicion. It was found that many times the passengers on whose name the consignments were booked never visited Hyderabad," the DRI said.
On July 22, based on a tip-off, the officials had intercepted two consignments of commercial edible goods, weighing more than 3 tons, valued at Rs 11 lakh.
"In total, 7 consignments weighing around 13 tons, with restricted and prohibited items valued at Rs 52.24 lakh, were seized," the DRI said.
A case has been registered and further investigation is under progress.