The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unearthed a major graft racket at Nhava Sheva port on Monday with the arrest of three Customs House Agents (CHAs), who were allegedly collecting bribe on behalf of Customs officials.
The accused will remain in CBI custody till Monday.
The CBI arrested the three men, who were working as CHAs of a Mumbai-based private company, when they allegedly demanded and accepted a bribe of Rs.50,000 from the proprietor of a city-based private firm involved in import of general items.
During questioning, they alleged that they demanded the bribe on behalf of a Superintendent of Customs, posted at Nhava Sheva.
A statement posted at the official website of CBI said that five residential premises of the accused, including the suspected Superintendent of Customs, were searched.
“During the search, around Rs97 lakh in cash, gold jewellery weighing 237 grams and incriminating documents along with investments made via the purchase of three flats in Mumbai were recovered from the residence of the Superintendent of Customs,” the statement read. However, the CBI has not arrested the Superintendent so far.
The trap was laid after the CBI received a complaint from the import firm’s proprietor against one of the CHAs that he demanded bribe from him for managing Customs officers clearing his goods. His arrest led to the arrest of two others.
CBI sources said it has been revealed that there are more than 100 such persons who collect bribe on behalf of Customs officials for a share in the amount. Sources said such middlemen charge between 10% and 20% of the bribe amount.
Sources said that these men not only hand over the cash to officials in Mumbai, but in many cases they carry the cash to the officials' native place or cities where they would want the same to be delivered.
“The Customs officials choose CHAs or staff who work in shipping lines and logistic companies, as they have passes to enter the port premises and can negotiate with the importers and exporters,” the official said.
Sources said that the people not only work as collection agents, but are also instrumental in getting ‘clients’ for the Customs officials.
When contacted, the office of chief commissioner of Customs, Nhava Sheva, CS Prasad asked us to contact commissioner of Customs, import, Seema Bisht. Attempts to talk to her failed.