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Indonesia-origin betel nuts smuggling case: ED raids 17 premises in Maharashtra, busts syndicate

New Delhi: The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has searched 17 premises across Mumbai and Nagpur under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, covering office and residential premises of various persons involved in smuggling of betel nuts of Indonesian origin, which were smuggled mostly via the Indo-Myanmar border.
ED investigation has revealed a well-organized syndicate of suppliers of Indonesian betel nut, commission agents, logistic providers, transporters, hawala operators and buyers who were smuggling the betel nuts into India. The agency initiated an investigation on the basis of CBI Nagpur FIR dated March 5, 2021 registered under relevant sections of law.
As per the FIR, many Nagpur-based traders, in connivance with various public servants, were indulged in smuggling of substandard betel nuts/areca nuts of Indonesian origin and falsely claiming the same to be originating from member countries of South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA) and South Asia Free Trading Agreement (SAFTA) by using fake certificates of origin, the agency said in a statement on Saturday.
The agency said the accused used bogus and undervalued bills/invoices, thus causing evasion of payment of customs duty to the government. Further, the revenue intelligence authorities had also investigated the illegal smuggling of betel nuts and issued eight show cause notices.
"Fabricated domestic invoices were made and transported smuggled betel nuts brought to Nagpur and Gondia Districts of Maharashtra. During ED searches, an unaccounted betel nut of 289.57 MTs valued at roughly Rs 11.5 crore has been seized under PMLA at Nagpur. The godown owner could not supply the KYC of the traders who deposited the betel nut and failed to furnish any supporting documentation like stock register, bills, invoices, quality certificate, transport documents etc. ED has seized Rs 16.5 lakh in cash and various incriminating documents and digital devices," it said in the statement. (ANI)

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