Over 289 metric tonnes of ”unaccounted” betel nuts worth Rs 11.5 crore were seized following raids at multiple premises in Nagpur and Mumbai as part of a money laundering probe against people involved in smuggling of its Indonesian variety, the Enforcement Directorate said here on Saturday.
The ED case stems from a CBI FIR of March last year where it was alleged that many Nagpur-based traders in connivance with various public servants indulged in ”smuggling” of sub-standard betel nuts/areca nuts of Indonesian origin and falsely claiming the same to be originating from member countries of South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) and South Asia Free Trading Agreement (SAFTA).
This was done, the agency said in a statement, by using ”fake” certificates of origin, and by using bogus and under-valued bills/invoices and thus ”evading” Customs duty.
The Indonesian betel nut is smuggled largely from across the Myanmar border.
Probe found, it said, that there is a well organized syndicate of suppliers of Indonesian betel nut, commission agents, logistics providers, transporters, hawala operators and buyers who were smuggling this chewing item into India via the India-Myanmar border. ”Fabricated” domestic invoices were made and smuggled betel nuts were brought to Nagpur and Gondia districts of Maharashtra, it said.
The agency said it seized unaccounted betel nut of 289.57 metric tonnes (MT) valued at roughly Rs 11.5 crore at Nagpur apart from Rs 16.5 lakh cash.
The godown owner could not supply the KYC of the traders who deposited the betel nut and failed to furnish any supporting documentation like stock register, bills, invoices, quality certificate, transport documents etc.