The Mumbai Customs is on the trail of a big waste oil smuggling racket and has seized about 100 containers carrying 20 lakh litres of the same. Import and export of waste oil is banned in India as it is hazardous.
The smuggled waste oil is adulterated in diesel and sold in the open market. “The smugglers take contracts to dump the waste oil that is left after cleaning refineries in United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and other Gulf and Middle East countries,” a senior Customs officer said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
He said that instead of dumping the waste oil, they people smuggle it to India. “It is totally profitable for them as they are paid to dump the waste oil,” the officer said. He added that these containers were seized at Nhava Sheva and Mumbai ports in around 12 cases in the last few months. Customs authorities are investigating to find out in how many other cases the smugglers sneaked the waste oil out of ports.
“We suspect that the smugglers would have managed to take out a huge quantity of waste oil,” the officer said. In all these cases, the customs authorities have found that the consignments were declared as some other genuine import material.
Among the declared material were mixed hydro-carbon oil, natural bitumen, base oil, alkyl benzene, SN 500 (oil) and SN 300 (oil). “Some of these are look alike of waste oil and so the smugglers use their names to clear the consignment,” the officer said. He added that the smugglers also change the country of origin in bills of entry for the ‘imported’ consignment to avoid suspicion.
The authorities suspect that the smugglers paid duty for the consignments that they managed to get clear in the name of some other material.
“They would have promptly paid duty to avoid any suspicion,” the officer said. He added that the costs of the ‘imported’ material were declared on paper as $200 to $300 per metric tonne. The customs have so far not been able to catch the culprits as the names and addresses of ‘importers’ of consignments were found to be fake.
The authorities have found that the waste oil is sent from Mumbai to Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. “There they remove 20% diesel in a tanker and replace it with waste oil,” the officer said. The adulterated diesel is then sent to remote villages in and around these states where it is used for generators and other machines used for irrigation purposes.
The authorities suspect some part of waste oil is also used in Mumbai to adulterate diesel that is used in heavy vehicles. Environmental activist Debi Goenka said: “It is very polluting. It will emit large amount of smoke and fume which is damaging for the environment.”