The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seized betel nuts worth more than Rs 2.5 crore and arrested five persons in this connection. The nuts were being smuggled from Indonesia through Myanmar, and the DRI suspects that an international smuggling racket may have been involved in the same.
The betel nuts weighing 104.52 metric tons, were brought from the town of Champai in Mizoram on the Indo-Myanmar border and were being taken to Coimbatrore, Nagpur and Varanasi.
“Acting on a tip-off, DRI sleuths confiscated five lorries carrying betel nuts on the Ghoshpukur bypass. The 104.52 metric tons of betel nuts originated from Indonesia and came through the Indo- Myanmar border in Mizoram. Five persons who were carrying the items are from South India. They have been arrested,” said a lawyer representing the DRI, Tridib Saha.
The estimated value of the betel nuts is Rs 2,62,34,520. The five persons–Srinivas Rao, Raghu Babu, M Laxmana, Venkat Ramana and R Krishna Rao–were produced in the Siliguri Court on Thursday. DRI officials said smuggling of betel nuts from Indonesia was rampant.
“One of the reasons for this is that the nuts are cheaper there as compared to Indian betel nuts. Its smuggling creates an impact in the Indian economy. These are generally used in the manufacturing of paan masala, mouth fresheners and gutkha,” said a DRI officer.
It may be recalled that the DRI had seized Indonesian betel nuts worth Rs 1, 20,50,000 and arrested four persons in the Goaltuli area in Siliguri Sub- Division in June last year. The nuts were smuggled from the same route.
In another significant seizure, the Preventive and Intelligence wing of the Customs and the 41 battalion of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) had recovered around 9,800 kg of betel nuts worth Rs 19,50,000 from a train at NJP station at Siliguri on 15 April last year.
In another joint drive, the DRI and SSB intercepted four vehicles loaded with betel nuts weighing 82.920 metric tons and worth more than Rs 1,65,84,000 at the Ghosh Pukur Toll Plaza area near Siliguri on 2 March in 2016.
Nine persons were arrested in that connection. Investigations in all cases had revealed that the nuts were smuggled from Indonesia.