An Anil Ambani group plane today hit the airpocket with government issuing a notice for its seizure as part of tirade against the alleged customs duty evasion in aircraft imports by Corporate India.
Customs issued the notice for an estimated Rs 150 crore Global 5000 Bombarider plane belonging to the Reliance Transport and Travels Pvt Ltd for over Rs 37 crore as duty.
Till now, the authorities have seized about 10 aircraft obtained by corporate entities, including a Mukesh Ambani group firm, GMR, Oberoi and Indiabulls under non-scheduled operator permit, but released the same on bank guarantee and bonds.
ADA group firm Reliance Transport and Travels said immediately that though it had done no wrong, it offered a voluntary bank guarantee and indemnity bond, a move spurned by the customs on the ground that without issuance of seizure notice no such offer can be accepted.
Customs department is scrutinising over 250 corporate jets, including those belonging to Tatars, DLF and Raymonds, amid reports that different regional custom offices are issuing notices to them one by one.
A spokesperson of Reliance Transport and Travels said that "RTT is a valid NSO permit holder and has responded and furnished full and comprehensive documentation regarding its aircraft.
"RTT further informed the Customs that it has complied with all existing rules and regulations," spokesperson said.
The Anil Ambani group company, which purchased the Global 5000 Bombardier plane last year, said it has informed the customs department about its compliance with all the existing rules and regulations.
"RTT operates the aircraft for passengers and all flights are paid for and the appropriate taxes have been paid to the relevant statutory authorities," the spokesperson said.
"RTT also offered voluntary bank guarantee-cum-indemnity bond to the customs. However, due to procedural formalities, RTT was informed that the bond could not be accepted unless the seizure memo was issued," he added.
After over 250 planes purchased since 2007 by corporate houses with NOS permits came under the scanner to detect any duty evasion earlier this month, a finance ministry official said that anybody found guilty of acquiring aircraft with duty exemption under Non-scheduled Operator Permit Scheme could be levied penalty up to five times the duty evasion.
Though there is no official estimate of the duty evasion, sources in the know indicated that government could collect over Rs 10,000 crore by way of tax and penalty.
A senior customs official said some business houses had taken 'advantage' of the duty exemption announced last year on import of aircraft meant for chartered flights. But it has been found that many of these were later being used for personal purposes.
The aircraft imported for private purposes attract 28 per cent duty as against zero duty for scheduled and non-scheduled operators. Over 65 firms of the total 86 operators having the NSO permit are said to be under the scanner.
The issue is understood to have come to light after Directorate General of Civil Aviation sent a copy of notice issued to NSO permit operators for "non-adherence to conditions of operations" to Customs Department in May.