Dubai Ports World – Smuggler’s Paradise

published on November 3, 2011

Red sanders racket: Kingpins based at Dubai
Daily Pioneer

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which had last Friday foiled a bid to smuggle out red sanders worth crores of rupees to Dubai through Kochi port, has identified the kingpins of the racket even as reports on a possible connection between them and certain Maoists in Andhra Pradesh have come out.

The DRI has reportedly confirmed that the chiefs of the red sanders smuggling racket, Shafeeq from Thalassery, Kannur and Shahul Hameed from Chennai, are stationed in Dubai. It is said that they have been shipping the red sanders, a much sought after raw material in the music instrument industry, to Hong Kong and China after receiving it in Dubai from Kochi.

The directorate has learned that the red sanders smuggling racket has got a cast international network with operations in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Dubai, Hong Kong and China. The agency has already sought the assistance of the Interpol for getting Shafeeq and Hameed, presently in Dubai, back to India.

The DRI came across this information during the interrogation of Anil Kumar of Palakkad, the racket’s local chief. Anil Kumar was behind the bid to smuggle out red sanders to Dubai last week in a container labeled as rubber mats from the recently commissioned International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam, Kochi.

The DRI had in an early morning raid at ICTT last Friday seized 17 tonnes of red sanders worth Rs 2.5 crore in the international market from a container already cleared by Customs as carrying rubber mats. The officials had seized ten more tonnes of red sanders from Anil Kumar. The DRI has called back two containers of red sanders smuggled out to Dubai earlier.

Anil Kumar has also given indications of a possible link between the red sanders racket and certain Maoists in Andhra Pradesh. He told the DRI interrogators that he had trade connections with red sanders suppliers in Kadappa and Chittoor, places known as Naxalite strongholds in Andhra Pradesh.

The DRI is also reportedly examining whether Maoists in Andhra Pradesh have been using the ICTT at Vallarpadam, Kochi for receiving arms and ammunitions. Sources say that red sanders sale is one of the main sources of income for Maoists in Kadappa and Chittoor, where it grows abundantly.

Recent developments suggest that the Vallarpadam ICTT, built and operated by Dubai Ports World, is being widely used by smugglers and racketeers for illegal transnational trade operations as it is generally immune to security inspections by agencies like the DRI and Customs because of its status as a Special Economic Zone.

The Customs Department and the Dubai Ports World are already at loggerheads over the latter’s refusal to allow Customs inspections at the terminal premises. Presently, Customs inspection of containers is being carried out on Willingdon Island, a few kilometers away from the ICTT. This helps the racketeers to switch contents of the containers on the way to the ICTT.

However, Dubai Ports World says that it has nothing to do with the security arrangements at the terminal as these are being handled by the CISF and that it is up to the SEZ development commissioner to decide whether the Customs should be permitted to run a permanent inspection facility there.

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