Actress Aishwarya Rai seems to have got herself in a spot of a bother after the Customs Department found 23,000 euros (about Rs 14 lakh) in a parcel send in her name by post from a Netherland address.
The customs officials have now asked her to be present at their Ballard Pier office to explain the presence of the money. The parcel came from Rotterdam at the end of September and had Ash’s old Khar home address on it.
Officials in the department who did not wish to be quoted said the parcel got their attention because it had electronic goods according to the letter of declaration with it.
When persistent enquiries elicited no response from Ash, they opened the parcel and found it contained a DVD player, a pair of binoculars, Ralph Lauren polo sports T-shirt and other electronic items. Tucked away in between all these items was an envelope containing the Euros.
AK Prasad, Commissioner of Customs, Import, told HT on Tuesday that the euros were kept in a white envelope and the same was placed in between the goods, all in one package.
The parcel had Aishwarya’s name and address of Ram Laxmi Niwas building at 16th Road in Khar. Aishwarya presently doesn’t stay there though she still has the apartment.
Despite repeated attempts to contact the actress, she was unavailable for comment. HT sent several SMSes to her secretary Hari Singh and even called him up for comment but his telephones were switched off and he did not respond to the SMSes.
“The electronic items were declared but the currency was not,” said Prasad adding that the parcel weighed around 16.5 kg and the declaration value of the items was 1000 euro. The weight of the envelope containing the currency (23,000 euros) was around 100 grams.
Explaining the procedure, Prasad said that when the officers suspected the package, they wrote a letter to Aishwarya asking her to be present at the time of it being opened.
She was given two weeks time. However, she did not reply to the letter and after two weeks, the parcel was opened in her absence in front of witnesses. When the euros were found, another letter was written to the actor asking her to come and explain the presence of the currency.
Prasad said that at present no case has been registered against Aishwarya. He said that the misdeclaration has been done by the sender and not her.
About future course of action, he said that it depends on the actor - what statement she gives.
However, he mentioned that if Aishwarya failed to come to Customs House to give her statement, she would be issued summons. "If she ignores the summons, it would amount to an offence and is punishable under Customs Act," said Prasad. "Not cooperating doesn’t help the person. We have other ways of verifying things,” said Prasad.
When asked why Aishwarya could not have responded to the letters, Prasad said there could be any reason, “like sometimes the actors are so busy or they feel that it is too minor to respond.”
He said that the department wants to verify if Aishwarya had knowledge of the currency or if someone is trying to malign her or threaten her.
The case is being investigated by the Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch (SIIB) of the department.