The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has submitted before the Ernakulam District Sessions Court that the operations of gold jewellery exporter and retailer Rajesh Exports from Kochi were ‘dubious’ and its factory in Cochin Special Economic Zone was meant to just channelise gold coming here under the cover of SEZ to domestic market.
DRI counsel submitted this before the court when the anticipatory bail plea of Prashant Mehta, managing director of Rajesh Exports, was considered on Tuesday. According to DRI counsel, during the DRI raid on the company unit at Cochin SEZ, Kakkanad, they could not find any major operation being carried out there.
“We found just a guard and a small machine which certainly is not used for processing gold. We also failed to find any document which could substantiate that gold imported here was being processed and exported to other countries. The gold that comes here is smuggled to the company godown in Bangalore. The unit was sealed as part of the investigation,” the DRI said. In the first week of this month, the DRI had arrested one Hareesh Babu with 900g gold when he was about to board Island Express train to Bangalore.
During interrogation, Babu revealed that it was Biju Abraham, general manager of Rajesh Exports, who had given him gold to be taken to the company godown in Bangalore.
He told that he had smuggled gold twice on Biju’s directions. He named another person called Gandhi Lal who also smuggled gold for the company.
Following this information, Biju was arrested who told about Prashant Mehta.
After interrogation, the DRI was informed that 3.9 kg of gold was smuggled out of the SEZ in last few months. The DRI said Mehta had to be taken into custody to know about the operations of the company.
However, Mehta’s counsel said the company was not involved in any illegal activity. Charges raised by the DRI come under Section 135 of the Customs Act( evasion of duty or prohibitions). But anticipatory bail cannot be denied as an amendment to this Act states that evasion of tax upto `50 lakh is a bailable offence. The gold seized by the DRI carries much lower duty.
The counsel also said a letter was sent to the DRI on Mehta’s unavailability to appear before the investigation team. However, the DRI submitted the bill of a luxury hotel stating that he was in Kochi and had visited the company unit at the SEZ in the last week of April. The Union Ministry of Commerce, through its circular, had asked SEZ firms trading in gold without any value addition to shut shop from April 30. The Development Commissioner of Cochin SEZ too ordered the firm not to carry out any trading activity. The court will give the order on Mehta’s anticipatory bail plea on Thursday.