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Largest maize importer arrested for Rs 9cr customs duty evasion
February, 16th 2011

Revenue officials arrested the country's largest maize importer on Tuesday for evading customs duty worth Rs 9 crore. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials said Vinod Kansal, proprietor of Delhi-based Banaco Overseas, had sold imported maize without processing it, which is in violation of government rules. The metropolitan magistrate's court has sent Kansal to judicial custody till February 28.

The DRI is investigating 15 importers who sold maize directly to malls, cinema theatres and railway stalls as a result of which the government lost out on duty worth Rs 25 crore, officials said. The DRI recovered Rs 12 crore from some importers who admitted to making a mistake and paid up.

The Foreign Trade Policy allows maize imports only through National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), State Trading Corporation (STC) and Projects and Equipment Corporation of India Limited which act as channelising agents for users.

The duty charged is nil if the maize is processed and sold. To protect Indian maize growers, the World Trade Organisation has set a limit of 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of import.

Most of the imports are from Argentina and the US. "The imported maize gives 40 times better popcorn as compared to Indian produce, has a six-month shelf-life and less wastage. To develop the same crop here, more investment would be needed," a DRI official said.

The DRI investigated imports of Agrotech, Chennai-based Hai Sattar, Delhi-based Johrimal Shivlal and Harekrishnan Overseas, Nagpur-based Shah Nanji Nagi and some Indore-based companies. "Some paid the duty but the investigations are on," an official said.

Officials found that Banaco's claim that it converted the maize into popcorn at its Delhi plant was false. The DRI found no machinery at its Delhi godown. It was used to prepare and maintain records. Kansal failed to appear before DRI several times since last December.

Banaco imported 6937.561 metric tonnes maize valued at Rs 18.69 crore since 2000. But he sold it in the local market and not used to make popcorn as declared during imports, DRI's remand application said. DRI also found maize in the same bags as imports were made. Maize was transported to godowns at Bhiwandi and Delhi and sold through dealers or directly in the market.

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