Foreign cigarettes being smuggled into state
By Toby Antony | ENS | Published: 22nd November 2012 09:36 AM |
The Air Intelligence wing of the Customs Department which seized 642 cartons of foreign brand cigarettes worth `4.09 lakh from three persons, who arrived at the Kochi airport from Dubai last week, has found out that an active racket has been smuggling cigarettes from foreign countries to the state through various airports of the country.
The racket, being operated by Kanhangad natives, has been successful in their operations for the last two years.
According to an official of the intelligence wing of the Customs Department, the same racket had smuggled cigarettes through Pune airport two weeks ago before they were busted by the Customs officials at Nedumbassery.
“We had taken three persons, Muhammed Iddukunhi, Muhammed Kunhimuhammed and Abdulla Kunhi, of Pallikere, for smuggling foreign cigarettes to the country. The racket is operating with the assistance of several people residing in Dubai. The accused used to travel to West Asian countries every month and return with huge quantities of cigarettes through different airports. The gang selected minor airports and changed their destinations frequently to evade the Customs Department,” the officials said.
The officials estimate that in the last two years, the racket might have smuggled in cigarettes worth more than Rs 20 lakh. However, they are yet to identify the kingpins of the racket. The cigarettes are in high demand in Kasargod and Malappuram districts. The Customs Department is probing into whether the cigarettes have been transported illegally with the assistance of the Gulf returnees. It was on November 14 that the intelligence wing at CIAL intercepted the smugglers at the time of X-ray inspection of the luggage.
Following the incident, the Customs Department had issued an alert against the racket and an investigation was conducted.