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Crore in cash at Calcutta customs officers’ homes

Calcutta, July 8: Hard currency of more than Rs 1 crore tumbled out of the houses of two senior customs officers in Calcutta when anti-corruption investigators went knocking, the CBI said today.

The cash mound was discovered after the investigation agency raided the homes and offices of three customs officials this morning on the charge of “favouring” an importer and possessing assets disproportionate to their known income.

The CBI had picked out for the raids joint commissioner P.K. Goswami, additional commissioner K.K. Pradhan and deputy commissioner Kanchan Kumar Sanyal.

With offices at Customs House on Strand Road, all three are part of a core unit assigned to monitor imports and exports and realise duty.

The biggest cash haul came from the junior-most of the three. In the residence of deputy commissioner Sanyal at Dhakuria, CBI sleuths found Rs 88 lakh in cash, records for Rs 8.5 lakh in bank accounts as well as two bank lockers and documents showing investments valued at Rs 4 lakh.

“We are yet to open the bank lockers. We will be doing it tomorrow,” a CBI official said.

A raid on the house of additional commissioner Pradhan on EM Bypass yielded cash of Rs 14.5 lakh, evidence of Rs 8.5 lakh in bank accounts and RBI relief bonds of Rs 14 lakh.

The total value of the cash and the paper assets found at the two houses today has been put at Rs 1.37 crore.

A raid was also conducted on the Golf Green house of joint commissioner Goswami, but the CBI did not say whether any seizure was made.

CBI officers claimed that the three customs officials had “unduly favoured” an importer of Delhi and a customs clearing house agent of Calcutta by clearing a consignment of button battery cells routed through the Calcutta port in 2002.

A senior CBI official who is monitoring the case said the three officials “did not realise the customs duty as prescribed, causing a loss of Rs 1 crore to the government”.

The CBI was on the case from early this year after receiving several complaints that customs duty was not being collected according to the norms.

“A preliminary investigation revealed that there was something wrong in the button battery cells import. Later, we got evidence to initiate a case against the officers. We were slowly building the case against the three officers before we raided their premises,” the CBI official said. The official said investigations are going on and a “lot of work is still in progress”.

The raids were launched at 7.30 am, which later brought work to a halt at Customs House. Separate CBI teams entered the three houses also at the same time.

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