The raids were carried out on the premises of customs house agents, several private persons including proprietors/partners of importing firms and others, in pursuance of a Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench order in February this year.
The court order came on a PIL filed by Dr Mehboob M.K. Chintanwala highlighting a huge scam of smuggling of substandard, unsafe and unfit betel nuts/areca nuts causing huge losses to the government.
As per the investigations, unscrupulous traders in connivance with government officials fraudulently claimed to import the stuff from SAFTA-SAARC countries based on fake documents, certificates of origin, bogus or undervalued bills and invoices, and forged customs clearance certificates causing loss of custody duty of around Rs 15,000 crore annually to the government.
In June 2016, 23 wagons loaded with substandard and hazardous betel nuts smuggled internationally were found at Nagpur Itwari station, but the case was not probed properly.
A year later, the Department of Revenue Intelligence’s probe revealed four cases of smuggling of nearly 698 tonnes of betel nuts, suspected to be of foreign origins, smuggled via the India-Myanmar border and brought to Nagpur and Gondia.
The raids are still continuing and further investigations are underway, said the CBI.