Boxes remained at port for 300-700 days
Customs duty evasion running into crores of rupees is suspected in respect of some 170 containers dumped first at the Kolkata port, and then at Paradip.
The boxes remained at the ports far beyond the official time allowed. Appropriate authorities in the Union Finance Ministry are looking into the goings on.
The containers were allegedly dumped at the Kolkata port by a Malaysia-based container feeder operator.
Import containers can remain at a port for 180 days without attracting any duty. Under special circumstances, this time limit can be extended by another 90 days.
After that, the containers have to be ‘exported’, either loaded or as empties. Inquiries reveal that the containers remained at the Kolkata port from 300 to 700 days. Then, they were moved to Paradip.
It is not clear if the special permission required for the domestic movement of international containers was taken.
The Paradip port authorities started an investigation when only 70 of the boxes were stuffed with iron and steel items for exports to Indonesia and placed for Customs inspection.
The port authorities, it is learnt, have not only issued a notice to the shipping line but also asked the Customs Department to investigate the matter. It is alleged that the Malaysian shipping company brings every fortnight to the Kolkata port a vessel that is over 30 years old, flouting a ban on ports from allowing any vessel more than 25 years old.