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Customs Dept gives Ash clean chit

india Updated: Nov 21, 2006 02:54 IST
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Actress Aishwarya Rai was questioned by Customs officials at the airport on Monday, regarding the parcel containing 23,000 euros (about Rs 13.20 lakh) mailed to her from Rotterdam, Holland.

Rai was questioned for about two hours. She denied any knowledge of the parcel or the sender, who was identified only as 'Avineshwar'.

She was also shown a photocopy of his passport photograph, which accompanied the parcel. She was subsequently given clean chit "as of now", said Commissioner of Customs (Imports) AK Prasad.

Clad in a white shirt and denims, Rai arrived at the airport at noon with mother Vrinda and lawyer Girish Kulkarni. She met Prasad, Additional Commissioner of Customs, Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch (SIIB) HS Narang and Deputy Commissioner of Customs (SIIB) JP Singh.

The parcel - which also contained a DVD player, binoculars, a T-Shirt and two Nokia cellphones - was addressed to Rai's Khar residence in September.

She has now shifted to Bandra. The authorities had sent two letters to Rai's Khar address, which were undelivered.

A Customs officer then spoke to her secretary Hari Singh. Last week, Rai's father Krishnaraj met Prasad and assured him the actress would answer all his questions soon.

Prasad said Rai was nervous during the questioning. "Only innocent people get nervous like that. The guilty are more confident," Prasad said.

Kulkarni later said that Rai was ready to provide more clarifications if the department required it.

Prasad said the Customs department would now go through the diplomatic channel to get hold of the sender.

Meanwhile, Rai's questioning at the airport instead of Customs House at Ballard Pier has raised eyebrows. Some officers and lawyers said she was getting special treatment. Advocate Sujay Kantawala, who handles Customs-related cases, said the department doesn't give this facility to everyone.

"Officers have been physically extended to meet individual needs," said Kantawala. "Now, every person being investigated can choose where he wants to be questioned."

Prasad denied that Rai got any special treatment. "The airport office is also a Customs office. We did not go to her house or anywhere else. We can call her there under the Customs Act," he said.

Kulkarni also denied that Rai got special treatment. "They shouldn't have called her in the first place. She was not concerned with the case. What is the special facility in this," he said.

Email Manish Pachouly: manish .pachouly@hindustantimes.com

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