A Mini Cooper, a Ducati bike, a Land Cruiser and a couple of Volkswagens: These are among the 13 vehicles with chequered pasts the Kochi Customs is getting ready to auction. These luxury vehicles have been kept in the Willingdon Island, adjacent to the Customs House, for years on end. Now, officials are hoping to sell them off.
"We are still sorting out the cases and pending legal issues with regards to these vehicles. Once that is completed, the vehicles will be sold via the Centre's Metal Scrap Trade Corporation e-auction site," the Superintendent of the Auction Cell of Kochi Customs told TNM.
Most of these vehicles entered the country through illegal means. The Mini Cooper, for instance, which costs upwards of Rs 28.75 lakh, was shipped to India and held 7 kgs of smuggled gold hidden in its petrol tank, reports state.
The Ducati was shipped into the country part by part. However, reports say, the case came to light when the bike was taken to a service centre. On getting wind of the information, the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DRA) immediately seized the bike. The superbike, which costs around Rs 6.78 lakh, now has a place in the shed with a case pending against it.
â€œWhen the vehicles are sold, their prices will be determined by independent mechanics and the concerned agencies within the Customs Department that deals with pricing," the Superintendent told TNM.
Out of the 13 vehicles, 10 of them were seized by the Customs while 3 were confiscated by the DRA.
Selling of other smuggled goods
Apart from vehicles, several other seized items have been kept in the warehouse. This includes cigarettes, CIFL bulbs, mobile phones, red sandalwood, gold, memory cards and foreign-made liquor, seized by the Customs, Customs Preventive Department and Director of Revenue Intelligence.
â€œSelling of gold is a continuous process. We identify buyers and conduct the transaction via SBI bank officials. The pricing too is determined by them. In case of jewellery and gold in other forms, they are first converted to standard gold bars as per the directive from the Central government and only then sold. To do this, we send the gold to a Mumbai-based Central government-operated mint," the superintendent added.
According to reports, the customs sold 150 kilograms of gold in the last fiscal year, valued at Rs 43.20 crore. This year, the sold gold was valued at Rs 9.67 crore and weighed 31.79 kilograms.
Apart from gold, another high-value product that is seized is red sandalwood. The customs warehouse reportedly houses red sandalwood worth Rs 100 crore, collected since 2014, weighing about 120 tonnes.
â€œWe haven't sold off off the red sandalwood until now. To do this, we need to sell it via the State Trading Corporation or approach the Forest Department as the sandalwood cannot be sold to the public," the official said.
Reports have also stated that the Customs warehouse houses several narcotics, including ketamine, cannabis, brown sugar, cocaine and charas.
The warehouse also reportedly houses 1 tonne of cannabis oil. These will be destroyed by the Customs officials. Apart from this, imported cigarettes that have been seized too cannot be sold owing to legal complications in its sale. Therefore, it is likely that the cigarette consignment too will be burned and disposed off by the officers.
Customs officials can sell those items which have pending cases on them, after receiving a go-ahead from the Customs Commissioner and presenting the goods before the court as proof.
This process is known as the pre-trial disposal of items. Once sold, the amount received will be recorded. After the case is closed, the money will be transferred to the other party in case the verdict was made in their favour.