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Bengaluru sees surge in smuggling of cigarettes from foreign countries

Bengaluru sees surge in smuggling of cigarettes from foreign countries

BENGALURU: Smuggling of foreign cigarettes into Bengaluru is on the rise and the demand, going by cases registered with the customs department, is high for products from Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Statistics obtained from the customs department show 80 cases have already been detected at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) up to September this financial year ending March 31, 2017, and sources said there are all indications the number would surpass the previous year’s figure.

In 2015-16, the number of cases saw a huge jump to 186 from just three in 2014-15. Customs department sources said smuggling foreign cigarettes is lucrative business, as smuggled cigarettes are cheaper given that customs duty on such products is high when imported.

“Black marketers make a huge profit as they avoid customs duty, which is almost 125% of the price, and sell the cigarettes,” says Rajeev Bhushan Tiwari, principal commissioner, customs, Bengaluru zone.

Pointing out that demand is high for cigarettes from Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, another senior officer said one of the ways to identify smuggled cigarettes is they don’t have pictorial warnings on them, as it is not mandatory in all countries.

“The cigarettes are smuggled physically and through cargo. We’ve come across cases where persons are detained for carrying 200-300 packs of cigarettes hidden in the false bottom of suitcases and handbags,” sources said.