SIRAHA, Mar 7: On January 15, a team of customs officers confiscated a huge stock of clothes illegally imported from India from a go-down near Golbazaar Police Office. Though the smuggled clothes were seized, the owners were able to run way.
On February 9, a team of customs officers seized a pick-up with Indian registration number unloading chicken on a pick-up truck with Nepali registration plate. The Indian government has prohibited Nepali vehicles to go beyond the garden near the Lagadigoth police station. The driver and co-driver of the trucks along with the owner of the chicken were successful in escaping. The customs officials took the jeep and chickens to the customs office. In both these cases, the smuggled goods were caught but not the smugglers or owners.
According to the records maintained by the customs office, there are many such cases where the smuggled goods are caught but the perpetrators succeed in escaping. Customs officials and security personnel have been accused of collaborating with the smugglers in the cross-border smuggling.
According to a hotel owner of Madar Bazaar, there is a reason why only chicken were caught in the February 9 incident. "The lower level customs staffers deliberately let the smugglers escape as a revenge against the higher level staffers who apparently always ignored them," said the hotel owner requesting anonymity. "The chief of the customs office was on leave that day," he added.
Nabin Thakur, a non-gazetted officer at the customs office had assured to find the owner of the truck and the smugglers. A week after the incident, the office published a 15-day notice, asking the owner to claim the truck. This was the end of the 'investigation'. As stated by one of the customs officials, this case is almost about to be closed. "No one has yet claimed the truck. So, this case will be closed for sure," said the officer.
Meanwhile, Rajendra Hamal, chief of the customs office, refused to comment on the case. "The 15-day deadline to claim the vehicle has expired. I have got nothing more to say," said Hamal. The customs office has sought Rs. 9.8 million as fine from the owners of the five trucks with Indian registration and five trucks with Nepali registration numbers. "The amount is so high. So, there is little chance that anyone will come to claim the vehicle," said one of the officials seeking anonymity.
According to Amit Yadav of Madar Bazar, it is not possible to control smuggling without catching the smugglers.