One of the anti-smuggling measures is to man the entry and exit gates of Docks. The basic duty of these gate officials is to ensure that the export goods entering the gate are brought in with proper documentation and that the same are not prohibited and the imported goods being taken out of the gate are taken out covered with proper documents and on payment of appropriate duty etc. It also entails keeping a strict vigil, from anti-smuggling point of view, on vehicles and persons entering and exiting the gate.
I was posted as gate officer at NSICT Container Gate at JNPT port. In order to facilitate ease of doing business, the exporters who have stuffed their export cargo under the supervision of Central Excise officer are allowed to take such containers directly to the Port under invoice bearing the details of goods stuffed in the subject container and an endorsement of Central Excise officers certifying that export cargo mentioned in the said invoice is stuffed under the their supervision. One day a person came to my gate with an invoice bearing the endorsement of Central Excise official on it. However on going through the details of goods and exporter mentioned in the said invoice and the appearance of person before me some suspicious arose in my mind about genuineness of export goods and person before me. I started asking the relevant questions about exporter, place of stuffing of cargo etc. However, the replies given by him were far from satisfactory. Hence, I decided to check the customs bottle seal affixed on the container. On verifying the seal, I noticed that the same was either tampered with or not a genuine one. I also noticed some over writing on the invoice. On more questioning the said person confessed that he has nothing do with the said container and that one of his friends asked him to get the said container passed in from NSICT container gate.
Then I questioned the driver of the truck on which said container was brought. On detailed interrogation, he confessed that he doesn't know from where this container was bought as he was asked to take the said truck to port from the nearby check post. He further informed that he had no clue about the earlier journey of the said truck or container.
Suspecting the concealment of some prohibited goods under the guise of the declared printed packaging material mentioned in the said invoice, I prepared a report and handed over the same with both the persons i.e. truck driver, and one who appeared before me with invoice and truck with container loaded on it to SIIB (Export) as per directions of my senior officer. The SIIB carried out thorough investigation which resulted in recovery of 9540 kg Red Sanders Wood valued at Rs 1.49 Crores. The subject goods were seized being prohibited goods for export and it also resulted into arrest of few persons found concerned.
This is a good example of how a vigilant and alert gate officer can also make cases. Scrutiny of documents plays a very important role in execution of duties by gate officers. Wisdom says 'A cat in gloves catches no mice'.