THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over three years after the controversial shutdown of the Plus Max duty-free shop at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, a joint venture between the Adani Group and the Dubai-based Flemingo International is likely to reopen the shop coinciding with the former’s takeover of the airport next month.
Sources close to the customs said the new party is expected to make a proposal to the customs soon to get the licence to run the duty-free shop. An unofficial discussion has already taken place and it is learnt the customs have no objection to issue a licence to the new party, as there is no legal hurdle in doing so with the airport having been leased out to a private party.
Preparations have been on at the airport to reopen the duty-free shop when the airport is formally taken over by Adani Enterprises, which has floated a new company -- Adani Trivandrum Int’l Airport Ltd -- to run the airport for 50 years on lease. The shop run by the previous company, Plus Max, was shut down following allegations of the diversion of foreign liquor to the black market using travel documents of passengers without consent.
The case dates back to April 2018 when the customs raided the duty-free shop and seized records of alleged diversion of foreign liquor to the local market evading crores of rupees in duty. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that tax to the tune of Rs 16.81 crore was evaded by diverting liquor to the local market using the travel documents of nearly 13,000 passport holders.
Later, the customs and the CBI recorded the arrest of a senior customs officer in the airport -- Luke George -- in connection with the case, along with others. The cases registered by the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the customs are at various stages in different courts. The Prohibition Enforcement Wing of the Coimbatore police had also registered a case against the company staff when they were taken into custody with imported liquor there.
Though the company secured an order from the High Court in 2018, it was stayed by the division bench. Since then, the duty-free shop has remained shut.
Back to shopping days
New JV is expected to make a proposal to the customs soon to get the licence to run the duty-free shop
The Adani Group is likely to take over the airport by the second week of October
The duty-free shop run by the previous company was shut down following allegations of tax evasion by diverting imported liquor to the local market using the passport credentials of passengers without their consent
The investigation had revealed tax evasion to the tune of D16.81 crore, using the travel documents of nearly 13,000 passport holders
The customs case was taken over by the CBI, ED and the NIA. The cases are at various stages