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Kochi SEZ ports exporting illegal red sandalwood to China

Kochi, Sat, 05 Nov 2011 ANI

Kochi, Nov 5 (ANI): The recent seizure of a container of red that was being moved from the SEZ port of Vallarpadom in Kochi has once again exposed the illegality of exporting this product to various parts of China.


It is being alleged that the rare sandalwood was cut and transported through a nexus of smugglers and Naxals from the forests of Andhra Pradesh to other ports with the help of agents.


As many as nine containers, worth about 100 crores, have already passed unnoticed to other countries via this port.


Government enforcement agencies like the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Customs and Excise have complained that they have very little access to the these SEZ Ports.


Because the first such SEZ approved port does not allow the entry of enforcement law agencies to conduct checks inside, it helps smugglers to carry on with their illegal operations. The Customs Department has alleged that the terminal is not immune to on-port customs inspections as per Section 47 of the SEZ Act.


The enforcement agencies who arrested the kingpin of the illegal trade Anil Kumar, the driver and few others are dismayed by the fact that they will be released on bail as the Indian law has no provisions against persons who violate the International treaty helping culprits to evade punishment, says advocate Uday Bhanu, who filed the case in the Local Magistrate of Economic Court.


"Government of India has entered in an international treaty with several countries and to protect the treaty in our country there is no law against persons who are violating the international treaty.," said Bhanu.


"The recent Supreme Court order which states that any person of what ever quantum of amount he is evading or what ever the gravity of his offence he is involved the magistrates are bound to release them on bail has created a very bad situation that is why we have opposed the application still then we are hopeful to fight it out before the constitution bench of the Supreme Court," he added.


The extent to which the Customs-no-entry norm at the terminal can affect national economy and security had come to light last week after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) confiscated, in an early morning raid, a container with 17 tonnes of contraband red sandalwood destined for China through Dubai and Hong Kong from the Vallarpadom ICTT.


The DRI has learned that red sandalwood worth a minimum of Rs 50 crore had left the ICTT for Dubai to be re-routed to Chinese ports since the commissioning of the terminal in February last.


The contents of the container cleared by the customs as rubber mat last week were filled with red sandalwood on its way to the terminal after getting Customs clearing.


The red sandalwood is exported mainly to China for making musical instruments due to cheap price and availability in India. y Juhan Samuel(ANI)


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