KOCHI: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is planning to interrogate V J Sahal, an Erattupetta native, as part of the probe into the seizure of foreign cigarettes worth `4.5 crore from Chennai a few months ago. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old businessman has approached the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court seeking anticipatory bail.
The DRI had a few months ago recovered more than 30 lakh sticks of cigarettes from Indonesia - imported through a port in Chennai - from a container freight station. The cigarettes did not bear the statutory health and pictorial warning mandatory under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules. Four persons were arrested by the DRI in connection with the seizure.
However, they suspect a bigger racket, which smuggles foreign cigarettes through various ports in India, to be behind the incident.
“The investigation carried out by the DRI Chennai unit revealed the involvement of the Erattupetta native. We had conducted a search at his house. Two weeks ago, a notice was served on him for appearing before us for interrogation. But he did not turn up,” a DRI officer said.
The DRI unit in Kochi has also launched a probe to check whether the racket is behind the supply of foreign cigarettes in Kerala as well, without complying with the rules.
Meanwhile, in the anticipatory bail petition filed before the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court Sahal said he was not involved in any illegal business. According to the plea, Sahal doesn’t possess any import-export licence.The court will hear the petition in the coming days.
Foreign cigarette smuggling is becoming rampant across India as DRI alone has made 11 seizures in the past six months.