CBI withdraws prosecution against officers of Indian Customs and Central Excise in Uzbek case
August, 26th 2014
The Central Bureau of Investigation has withdrawn prosecution against five senior officers of Indian Customs and Central Excise in a 14-year-old smuggling case involving an Uzbek woman. "The finance ministry and Attorney General have given an opinion that the prosecution be dropped," CBI director Ranjit Sinha told ET on Thursday.
The move comes eight years after the agency had submitted a chargesheet against the officers, who are being tried in a special court in Tis Hazari. The 27 other junior customs officers of Group B and C level will also get off the hook now. The five senior officers are VK Singh Kushwaha, HR Bhima Shankar, Rajiv Gupta, Virender Kumar Choudhary and Upendra Gupta, all of whom continue to hold senior positions and have gone on to become joint commissioners.
Top CBI officials said former finance secretary RS Gujral had written to then CBI director AP Singh on March 1, 2012 with the approval of the then finance minister, asking the agency to apply to the trial judge for a closure of the case against the five top officers. GE Vahanvati, the AG at the time, also gave such a legal opinion, the CBI officials said.
The case dates back to August 28, 2000, when a customs officer had detained a 26-year-old Uzbek woman, Olga Kozireva, at the Delhi International airport when she arrived from Bishkek on a Kyrgyzstan Airlines flight. She was walking through the green channel with 27 bags weighing 2,200 kg when she was stopped and her baggage checked, revealing that she was carrying 81,000 yards of Chinese silk from Uzbekistan which was a prohibited item.
Further investigation revealed that she had flown into India hundreds of times since 1997 - and 68 times in 2000 alone - with similar consignments but was never checked. It was alleged that the customs authorities were bribed to let the consignments through. The CBI took over the case in 2001 and after a prolonged investigation sought sanction to prosecute nine Group A officers and 35 Group B and C officers in the matter.