NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka have decided to regularly exchange information to check smuggling between the two countries, according to an official statement issued today.
They have resolved to strengthen cooperation in preventing the smuggling of gold, drugs, fake Indian currency notes (FICN), wildlife, and other contraband across the India-Sri Lanka route, and to address trade-related issues such as "country of origin" frauds that impact the revenue of both the countries, it said.
The agreement was reached during a two-day meeting, that began yesterday, between Debi Prasad Dash, Director General, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) India and P S M Charles, Director General, Sri Lanka Customs.
The DG-level talks on anti-smuggling and related matters were held here after 10 years and focused on areas of mutual interest to combat smuggling and improve trade facilitation by use of data analytics, new investigation techniques, inter-agency co-ordination, and capacity building, the statement issued by the DRI said.
"It was agreed to hold regular meetings to exchange information to effectively combat smuggling between the two countries," it said.
In 2016-17, the DRI had effected seizures of gold in seven cases, weighing a total of 54 kilograms and valued at about Rs 16 crore, smuggled from Sri Lanka into India through the sea route using country boats and cleared after landing on the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, the statement said.
In 2017-18, 80 kilograms of gold smuggled in a similar manner and valued at about Rs 24 crore, have been seized by the DRI in eight cases.
The agency had on Wednesday seized 130 pieces of gold with foreign markings, weighing a total of 19.2 kilograms and valued at Rs 6.1 crores, at Mimisal, a small coastal village in Tamil Nadu.
The contraband was smuggled from Sri Lanka through the sea route in a country boat, it said.
The coastal route is also used by drug traffickers.
In January 2017, after extensive surveillance, Indian Customs officers seized six kilograms of heroin from a boat near Tuticorin, the statement said.
After apprehending three Indians who were attempting to smuggle the heroin by sea, the officers ventured into the sea in disguise and nabbed the Sri Lankan buyers in mid-sea in a risky operation, it said.
Apart from gold and narcotics, wildlife such as exotic turtles of central and north-east Indian origin and various marine species, are also being smuggled between the two countries by sea, the statement said.
Smuggling of foreign currency is also a shared concern, and both countries have seized large quantities of foreign currency in recent times, the agency said.
The officers of both the countries also discussed the modalities of a joint coordination committee for investigative assistance under the Customs Mutual Administrative Assistance Agreement (CMAA), which was entered into between the two countries in 2015.
"They also discussed various issues relating to trade facilitation, automation, enforcement and joint working group on data sharing," the DRI said.