Kochi port SEZ raises security issues

The threat posed by the country’s only International Container Terminal (Vallarpadom port) in Kochi to the nation’s security raises questions over foreign direct investment in seaport and airport projects.

The port premises is free from security check since it is located in the special economic zone (SEZ). The earlier efforts by security agencies to inspect containers brought to the terminal were foiled by the SEZ authorities citing certains sections of the Act.

The customs check point of the port is located nearly 40 km away. Since its commissioning nearly two years ago, red sanders are being frequently smuggled to Dubai from the port cashing in of this “advantage”.  The consignment is re-exported to Hong Kong, China and other parts of the region where they are used for cosmetics, preparing natural dyes and similar products.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has found that a three-member gang from Tamil Nadu based in Dubai are behind this racket. They are backed by the brother of a senior IPS officer in the state, who is running a customs clearance house in Kochi port.  

Several times, DRI officials have seized red sanders brought by the gang to the port for smuggling. Since smuggling is a bailable offence, they are back in business soon.

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