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Monday, April 20, 2015

15kg Gold worth 5 Crore missing from Customs Vault at Trichy !!!

Bonded warehouse :  -  secured facility supervised by customs authorities, where dutiable landed imports are stored pending their re-export, or release on assessment and payment of import duties, taxes, and other charges. [Also called customs warehouse]

Vault  :  A vault (or strongroom) is a secure space where money, valuables, records, and documents can be stored. It is intended to protect their contents from theft, unauthorized use, fire, natural disasters, and other threats, just like a safe. But unlike safes, vaults are an integral part of the building within which they are built, using armoured walls and a tightly fashioned door closed with a complex lock. Historically, strongrooms were built in the basement of a bank where the ceilings were vaulted, hence the name.
Representative photo of a CFS ~ not the value of the post !!

There are Custom Bonded Warehouses – building / secured area where Customs Department allow dutiable goods to be stored pending payment of duty.  By bonding the goods, the importer defers duty – it is the payment of duty that is deferred, while the incidence of duty befells the moment the goods are landed.  Upon entry of goods into the warehouse, the importer and warehouse proprietor incur liability under a bond. While the goods are in the bonded warehouse, they may, under supervision by the customs authority, be manipulated by cleaning, sorting, repacking, or otherwise changing their condition by processes that do not amount to manufacturing.

A  Customs Dept circular [CBEC] prescribes [inter-alia] the following procedure for the import of gold :
                      i.        all imports shall be routed through customs bonded warehouses only;
                     ii.        jurisdictional Commissioner may permit the vaults of the nominated agencies as customs bonded warehouse subject to the procedure prescribed under Section 58 of the Custom Act;
                    iii.        for every consignment of gold imported, at least 20% quantity shall be for  supply to the exporters only and remaining can be cleared on payment of duty in accordance with RBI circular dated 14.8.2013, as revised;

Without going into the functioning of Customs Dept and the procedures on import – there are vaults / customs bonded warehouses – either totally under the Dept Control or  places owned by individuals and approved by Customs. There are Customs Officials at all Ports / airports and other designated places.  Besides the imported goods, those goods seized by the Customs at Ports / airports are also kept in safe custody.

Now read this interesting report in Times of India, Chennai edition, of date :   

A total of 15kg of gold worth Rs.5 crore has gone missing from the vaults of the Central excise and Customs office at Trichy. While a complaint has been filed with the local police, the case is likely to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, sources said. The gold was found missing during an audit conducted by customs officials. The commissioner of customs filed a complaint with the Cantonment police in this regard. Police have collected footage of surveillance cameras placed around the vaults.

In the past few years, the vaults have been filling up fast with the frequent seizures of gold at Trichy International Airport. Officials have also been conducting regular audits.  The vaults of the customs and central excise are located at the regional centre in Cantonment, which has jurisdiction till Tuticorin. About two weeks ago, 22kg of gold was seized from two people, who were transporting it from Muthupettai and Nagapattinam, and the vaults were filled with this seizure, said a senior official. CBI had conducted a surprise check at the arrival area of Trichy International Airport on March 5 and 6, and had seized bribe amount to the tune of `2.94 lakh. In this regard, five customs officials and a passenger were arrested, and a case was registered.

According to sources at customs office, the recently  seized gold  was worth Rs. 5 crore.   How such a high quantity of  gold went missing is baffling. The DCP  Saroj Kumar Thakur has started investigation as per an order from the city police commissioner Sanjay Mathur. Thakur along with senior officials visited the customs office on Sunday and conducted enquiries  It is believed that the officials have investigated the footages at the office. Officials at customs office were unavailable for comment.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th Apr 2015.

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