CBI searches at 19 locations in connection with illegal import of ‘substandard’ betel nuts

The CBI has alleged that this has caused “huge loss” of around Rs 15,000 crore annually to the government.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday conducted searches on as many as 19 premises in Mumbai, Nagpur and Ahmedabad in connection with a case of poor-quality betel nuts and areca nuts being allegedly smuggled or illegally imported into India to evade customs duty.

The CBI has alleged that this has caused “huge loss” of around Rs 15,000 crore annually to the government.

The agency said that on March 5, it registered a case against unknown customs officials and private persons, following a February order of the Bombay High Court directing a CBI investigation into the matter.

The Central agency has alleged that traders in connivance with public servants have “indulged in smuggling of substandard Betel Nuts/Areca Nuts of Indonesian origin and falsely claimed the same to be originating from the SAARC member countries, on the basis of fake certificates of origin, bogus & undervalued bills/invoices and forged clearance certificates and thus causing evasion of customs duty”.

The CBI FIR said these nuts were being imported and declared as cashew peels to avoid lab test and detection.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has already booked four cases of smuggling of betel nuts and duty evasion since 2017, said the FIR.

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