Explained: What happens to items seized by Customs at airports?
New Delhi, Nov 14: The Mumbai Airport Customs seized 61 kg of gold worth Rs 32 crore in separate operations at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in the last few days.
In the first operation, four Indians returning from Tanzania were found carrying 1 kg gold bars, which were concealed in specially-designed belts with multiple pockets. Officials recovered 53 kg of UAE-made gold bars, worth Rs 28.17 crore, from the belts that the passengers had worn around their torso. Similarly, customs officials seized 8 kg gold valued at Rs 3.88 crore from three passengers who had arrived from Dubai.
In fact, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has hailed the alertness of Mumbai Airport Customs. "Appreciate @mumbaicus3 for your alertness. Your timely action has borne a stunning outcome. Well done," Sitharaman tweeted.
The whys and hows of the custom-seized goods
Have you ever wondered what happens to the seized items, or in this case seized gold?
You first need to understand why the Customs department seizes someone's items in the first place. Well, often they seize the items over inaccurate paperwork. So, when you land at the airport from a foreign country you should ensure that the paperwork that ships with the consignment contains everything Customs departments want to know about the goods. Like shipper name, address, telephone number, etc.
What happens once the goods are seized?
Once the goods are seized, the authorities give the individual a 'show-cause' notice within six months from the date of seizure. However, on sufficient cause being shown, the Commissioner of Customs may extend the time limit for a period not exceeding six months, after giving a notice and hearing the person from whom the goods were seized. If no 'show-cause' notice is issued within the prescribed time limit, the seized goods shall be returned to the person from whose possession they were seized.
According to the Customs department, the show-cause notice has to be issued indicating reasons for seizure and the action proposed to be taken on the seized goods and on the person from whom the goods were seized. The proper officer shall give an opportunity to the person from whose possession goods were seized to explain in writing and in person his point of view. Then the adjudicating authority has to issue an order indicating reasons and such order shall be subject to appeal for enabling the aggrieved person to appeal to the next higher authority. The adjudicating authority may confiscate the goods absolutely or may give option to clear the goods on payment of fine in lieu of confiscation, in addition to the duty payable on such goods. Penalty on person concerned is also leviable.
If the goods are confiscated absolutely, and there is no further order passed by the Appellate authority staying or setting aside the order passed by the adjudicating authority, the department may dispose the goods by sale or auction.
The sale of seized Items
There are three major methods for disposal, namely, E-auction or auction through internet, public auction-cum-tender, and direct sale.
After Customs prepare Inventory of the seized goods with necessary details, a Magistrate will then certify the correctness of the items following which a Joint Price Committee will inspect the goods and will decide upon the Fair Price or Reserve Price of the goods.
After this procedure is completed, there will be exhibition of the goods for the inspection of prospective buyers. Then, e-Auction of goods will be carried out for the disposal.
While food items with the value less than 5 lakh rupees are disposed off through National Consumer Corporation of India with the discount of 45.5 per cent, metal objects are auctioned through MSTC Ltd and gold items are auctioned through State Bank of India.
It has to be noted that if the goods are of perishable or hazardous nature and the value of the goods depreciate with the passage of time, etc., the goods may be sold by the department without waiting for adjudication proceedings after drawal of representative samples or taking photographs duly attested by a magistrate. In case, the final decision of the adjudicating authority/appellate authority is in favour of the person from whose custody the goods were seized, the goods shall be returned to him and, if the goods have been sold, the sale proceeds of such sale shall be paid to him.