The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is probing the role of at least 10 Customs officers posted at the Jawaharlal Nehru Customs House (JNCH) in Nhava Sheva in Mumbai for allegedly assisting in ghost exports worth about Rs 100 crore by six exporters in the last six months, it is learnt. Sources familiar with the development said the intelligence agency had found that these so-called exporters had claimed a duty drawback of
Rs 10 crore from the government on “bogus exports”.
“The DRI has found that no physical export or movement of goods used to take place. The syndicate in connivance with some officers of customs and shipping lines appeared to have defrauded the government by taking drawback merely on the basis of paper transactions. The agency is also looking into the role of the customs officials in charge of clearing documents under the direct port entry system for export consignments,” said a source.
The direct port entry system was introduced at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) last year to ease congestion, regulate traffic at the port terminal gates, and to reduce the dwell time of export containers. Earlier, the customs used to physically check if an export container had entered the port. However, under the new system there is no physical verification at the entry point.
“The case has been detected by the DRI and we are reaching out to them to get details of the case. We will act swiftly and harshly against any customs officer of JNCH found to have been involved in any violation,” Vijay Chauhan, Commissioner of Customs, JNCH, told The Indian Express. The DRI has found that the exporters had obtained the single sign-on (SSO) identification and passwords given to customs officials posted at the centralised parking plaza of JNPT. The SSO helps these customs officials to log into the server and examine and clear documents and issue Let Export Order (LEO) for factory-stuffed containers that enter the port for export.
The agency has said three persons — Sanjay Shinde, Uttam Chaudhari and Dharmesh Joshi — used to file shipping bills for export of goods such as perfumed incence sticks, coriander seeds, tea, coffee through different customs brokers. These shipping bills were registered on the Customs IceGate portal and LEO was granted to them through their alleged associate Murji Bhanushali by using the user IDs and passwords of customs officials posted in the port area. Subsequently, the shipping bills were used to get export general manifest in alleged connivance with shipping lines. These manifest were filed with the customs to avail duty drawback.
“More than 200 such shipping bills have already been found to have been processed for drawback in this manner by the syndicate as per investigations conducted till date. Undue drawback of more than Rs 10 crore appears to have been siphoned off by the syndicate in this manner. The scam could be bigger,” said one of the sources.
The DRI has so far arrested Shinde, Chaudhari, Joshi, Bhanushali and two others — Mohd Rafiq A Aziz and Anthony John Tauro — in connection with the fraud. All of them have been remanded in judicial custody till October 10, sources said.