Korean, Indonesian cigarettes flood central India

Korean, Indonesian cigarettes flood central India

Korea and Indonesia made cigarettes, seized in Guwahati. DH Photo/Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Guwahati

‘More harmful but cheap’ Korean and Indonesian cigarettes smuggled through Myanmar-Manipur borders are flooding markets in central Indian states, a central intelligence agency has said, following the recovery of two-truck full of such cigarettes, here.

Based on specific information, the sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) intercepted two ten-wheeler trucks in a warehouse here on Wednesday and seized 32 lakh four thousand sticks of Korean and Indonesian cigarettes worth over Rs. 5.59 crores. They arrested five persons transporting the consignment and seized the two trucks.

“The cigarettes made in Korea and Indonesia could be more harmful as quality is not checked properly. But such items are increasingly being smuggled and sold mainly in central Indian markets such as Delhi and Madhya Pradesh as they are priced less. The traders also make brisk business as these products are not duty paid and price tags are written in foreign languages. The customers also do not complain as they are priced lesser than Indian cigarettes,” a source in DRI’s Guwahati zonal unit told DH on Thursday.

Sources said such items are smuggled through the un-fenced Myanmar-Manipur borders and are stored by traders here in warehouses before they are distributed to the rest of the country. “The items are sent from Guwahati in small consignments and hidden under other goods to avoid the attention of police and security agencies,” said the source.

Customs officials in September this year had seized cigarettes made in Korea and China worth Rs. 44 lakh, from a truck near Siliguri in North Bengal, a corridor that connects Northeast with the rest of the country. Sources said in 2017, various intelligence agencies had seized such smuggled cigarettes worth nearly Rs. 5 crore, during raids.

“Seizure of such huge quantity of cigarettes is likely to cause a serious damage to the cartels running the smuggling business but there should be frequent checks in markets as such items can cause more health problem to people in our country,” said the source.

The DRI team also seized 6,000-kgs of black pepper smuggled through the India-Myanmar border in Manipur, from the two trucks.

The agency has stepped up operation against smuggling of gold, drugs, foreign-made goods and animal parts through the Northeast that shares 98% of its borders with China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.