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Customs officer faces action for 'tipping off' SA consulate
August, 09th 2011

A customs official may face action for sending a hoax terror alert to South African consulate during the FIFA World Cup 2010. He had warning the foreign authorities of explosives having landed in two containers shipped from Gujarat.

Almost a year later investigators are now chasing the officer Yogesh Shah, then posted as customs and central excise superintendent at Surendranagar for jumping the gun and sending authorities into a tizzy, unnecessarily. He is being blamed of sending intelligence directly to a foreign agency without ascertaining its authenticity and causing embarrassment to the country internationally.

On June 26, 2010m, Shah passed on intelligence to South Africa's Consul General in India, Busi Kuzwayo, about two containers sent from Gujarat to SA being laden with explosives meant for terrorist activity during the World Cup matches. Shah gave numbers of the containers and asked the diplomat to have all the containers coming from Gujarat and Maharashtra checked because, he said, "ain India only 10 per cent of exported cargo is checked". The mail was also marked to the German embassy.

Things backfired for Shah, when after the championship, SA officials doubted the intelligence and contacted ministry of external affairs to check Shah's credentials.

Shocked with the incident, directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) wrote to Bhavnagar central excise commissioner, Raju, on August 21, 2010, seeking an inquiry into why Shah provided information to a foreign agency directly and also to check the input's authenticity. TOI has a copy of this confidential letter from Sunil Tated, additional director DRI, Delhi, seeking urgent action.

"An inquiry was ordered to find reasons and intentions of Shah for writing such email," said Gujarat customs and central excise chief commissioner Lipika Majumdar Roy Choudhury.

Investigations have revealed that Shah supervised the sealing of the two containers in question stuffed with boxes of sanitary wares on June 21, 2010. Investigators also found that though buyers of the containers were from the SA, the cargo was meant for Dubai.

There have been several exchanges of letters between various divisions of excise department on the issue. However, despite central excise chief commissioner, Ahmedabad zone, writing on January 7, 2011, to commissioner Raju, the investigations are still pending. TOI has copy of this communication which has asked the investigators to bring on record material evidences of Shah's malafide intentions as soon as possible.

Shah is now posted in Ahmedabad service tax department division-1 and is responsible for recovering tax arrears. During his tenure, Shah has seized more than Rs 1,800 crore worth of smuggled goods, which include foreign currency, gold, heroin and hashish.

In wrong company?

Yogesh Shah's mail to the South African consulate begins with reference a function organized by British embassy in Mumbai. Shah has written in the mail, 'sir, remember we met in Queen Elizabeth II's birthday party organised by British High Commission in Mumbai at Taj Hotel. I had gone to the party on June 16, 2010, this year but didn't see you'. Shah is also facing heat for attending such parties.

Candid confession

Yogesh Shah has filed an RTI application, dated October 25, 2010, with central excise department, Surendranagar, seeking details about the inquiry against him. TOI has a copy of the same. Shah has said, "I wrote the email after receiving threat calls on my office number where someone said that the container sealed by me has suspicious goods meant to be delivered in South Africa, where the football World Cup is going on. The unknown caller said if anything happens in South Africa, I will be arrested and if I don't inform the officials there then I will be killed."

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