SIRAHA, March 9: Customs officials seize goods smuggled into Nepal from India, but smugglers manage to flee. This is a new trend that has emerged in customs offices of Siraha in recent months.
A team of customs officials seized huge quantity of smuggled apparel from a go-down near a police station at Golbajar of Siraha on January 15. But the owner is at large.
Similarly, customs officials seized vehicles smuggling chickens from India to Nepal near a police station at Lagadigoth near Indian border on February 9. But drivers and importers managed to flee. Many chickens surprisingly went missing from the vehicles while they were parked at the customs office.
These two incidents show a trend of smugglers 'outsmarting' customs officials and police.
Revenue mobilization from customs offices in the district has fallen significantly because of this new trend, sources say.
Commoners near customs office told Republica that smuggling is rift at customs offices. There is a 'setting' between police, smugglers and customs officials, they alleged. “If customs officials seize smuggled goods, we know that something is wrong in the 'setting' or that there is mistrust among police, security persons, or customs officials,” they added.
A hotelier near customs office of Madar Bazaar of Siraha said that seizure of smuggled chickens on February 9 is an example of such mistrust. “Chief of the customs office, Rajendra Hamal, was on leave on the day of the raid. His subordinates, who were happy with the chief, conducted the raid,” the hotelier said, requesting anonymity.
A day after the raid, first class non-gazetted officer of the customs office, Nabin Thkaur, had told media persons that they will also nab the owner of the smuggled goods though owner of the impounded vehicles and take action against them as per the Customs Act and Smuggling Act.
But the investigation was dropped midway. The office has now published a 15-day notice, asking owner of the vehicle to come and claim the seized goods. An official at the customs office told Republica that the notice implies that the case is being 'settled' now.
“The smuggler could have been easily nabbed had our office sought details of the vehicle owner from the Transport Management Office,” the official added.
Office Chief Hamal simply said the 15-day period to claim the seized goods has ended. “Nobody came to claim the seized goods. We cannot say anything more about the case,” he added.
Smugglers, according to existing law, can be jailed for up to seven years.
The customs office has set a fine of 9.8 million to claim seized goods and five Indian jeeps impounded during the raid.
Locals say smuggling of goods has increased in recent months as smugglers are never arrested. “Smuggling cannot be controlled if smugglers are left to walk free and only smuggled goods are seized,” Amit Yadav, a trader of Madar Bazar, said.