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CBI’s raids at Customs officers’ houses in Kochi
By AM Abdussalam January 04, 2018
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KOCHI: Officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday carried out raids at the office and residences of Customs officers in Kochi as part of the ongoing investigation into irregularities in importing electronic waste (E-waste) through Kochi Port for last several years.

Simultaneous raids were also carried out in Kolkata at the offices of companies involved in the import. The raids were being held at 12 locations in Kochi and three in Kolkata. CBI had registered an FIR against customs officials Kochi and domestic appliances company in Kolkata on Tuesday.

CBI investigators believe that the Kolkata-based companies, which imported used Multifunctional Digital photocopiers (MFDs), were bogus and used fake addresses in the documents submitted at the Cochin Port. Of the 8,000-odd machines which arrived in Kochi, 3,100 were found to be e-waste. The machines, imported by Athul Automation and Parag Domestic Appliances, allegedly contained hazardous elements such as cadmium, selenium and iridium.

The Customs Department and the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the agency to re-export the photocopier machines. But companies got a favourable verdict from the Customs, Eexcise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal in Bengaluru on Aug.9, 2017. The order stated that the imported machines cannot be considered as waste. The tribunal also observed that the importers were entitled for the release of the goods on payment of appropriate fine.

According to CBI, more than 25,000 multi-functional photocopiers, mainly from the US and Germany, passed through the Cochin port in the last three years. The imports were made by different agencies. However, the CBI has received information these photocopiers were imported by a single firm under the names of several agents.

In August last year, the KSPCB had informed the CBI that the importers did not file any annual returns to KSPCB with respect to the e-waste imports. The KSPCB also informed the CBI that releasing the seized machines would be a violation of various environmental laws.

In March 2017, the Customs Department ordered two of the importers to re-export the shipment. Over 3,100 machines out of the 8,000-odd machines arrived in the Kochi port had to be returned.
 

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