KOCHI: The Customs has decided to serve notice on the owner of the seized Switzerland-registered ‘SY Sea Dreams’ yacht which allegedly called at non-notified Customs Ports in Lakshadweep. The Customs Preventive Division revealed it is looking into whether the yacht was indeed engaged in illegal activities while it remained in Indian territorial waters. Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar told Express the yacht was in non-notified Customs Ports in Lakshadweep last year. The yacht belongs to Thomas Reichert who left for Switzerland after leaving the yacht at the Marina in Bolgatty here.
“We seized the yacht on Wednesday after it emerged it visited Bangaram, Kalpeni, Agatti, Kadamat, Amini and Kavaratti islands. It is a violation of Section 29 of the Customs Act to enter non-notified ports. As per the Act, the person-in-charge of a vessel or an aircraft entering India from any place outside India shall not cause or permit the vessel or aircraft to call or land in non-notified Customs ports,” he said.
The Customs, though, does not have any problems with the yacht docking at notified ports - it had docked at the Cochin Port after securing permission from the authorities concerned.
Earlier, while entering ports in Lakshadweep the crew had sought permission from Lakshadweep Administration and it was forwarded to the Customs unit in Kerala. “As these ports were non-notified Customs ports, we replied to letter from Lakshadweep Administration that permission has to be received directly from Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). However, they did not pursue the matter,” Sumit Kumar said.
The yacht initially reached Cochin Port on February 23, 2018. It left for Lakshadweep on November 11, 2018. Later it returned to the Marina on December 1, 2018. The owner of the yacht will fly down from Switzerland in March. “To complete the seizure formalities, our officers could not enter the yacht at it was found to be locked. So we granted the yacht’s custody to the Marina,” the Customs chief said.
According to Sumit Kumar, the investigation has been launched to establish the purpose behind the yacht’s protracted stay in Kerala. It emerged there were two persons on board the yacht when it entered the Cochin Port. “As the investigation is ongoing, we will serve a notice on the owner of the yacht, asking him to appear before us. We also have to get information on the places they travelled to during their stay,” he said.