A quiet burial likely for biggest smuggling case
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No government officer will be prosecuted in the most sensational smuggling case that rocked India in the last decade, with the government seeking its closure for lack of evidence.
Twelve years after the smuggling racket that became infamous as the Olga Kozireva case, Finance Secretary R S Gujral has written to CBI director AP Singh to apply to the trial court judge for closure of the case against five senior officers of Indian Customs and Central Excise.
The letter dated March 1 says it has been issued with the approval of the finance minister.
The letter, along with the details of the chargesheet available with FE through a RTI application shows none of the 27 officers of different grades accused in the case, were successfully prosecuted through either the CBI or departmental inquiries. The CBI case against the officers started in the trial court just last year, which is now sought to be withdrawn.
The government feels there is no clear evidence against the officers to prosecute them, even though there was enough evidence that a group of Uzbek women and Afghan men had allegedly made huge clandestine imports of typically Chinese silk for several years till 2001 in collusion with Customs staff at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.
If there is no prosecution, this will join several cases like Satyam, where government agencies have not been able to press charges for economic offences. After the smuggling racket was unearthed, the then finance minister Yashwant Sinha had personally directed the multi-agency probe, which has now run dry.
At least five of these officers have gone on to become joint commissioners in the finance ministry since then.
The finance secretary's letter to the CBI director said cases against these five who were the seniormost in the chargesheets were also referred to the attorney general. The attorney general in his reply in January after examining the charges made out by CBI and the departmental enquiries advised that it is a fit case for withdrawal of prosecution.