Panaji: In a major relief for former Goa chief minister Churchill Alemao, the Bombay High Court has quashed the Customs and Central Excise department orders imposing fines on the leader and his associates on charge of smuggling gold in 1991.
Alemao, who is an NCP MLA from Benaulim, and his associates had earlier filed an appeal before the Customs, Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) on January 20, 1995 but it was dismissed on December 13, 2004.
An appeal was filed by them in the high court on February 14, 2005. The Goa bench of the high court, comprising justices G S Patel and N D Sardessai, yesterday quashed the customs collector's orders, dated October 14, 1994 and December 13, 2004.
The collector's orders had pronounced Alemao, his brother and former minister Joaquim Alemao, another sibling late Ciabro Alemao and their associates guilty of smuggling gold.
Roy Miranda, Anton Fernandes, Anthony Rodrigues and Subhash Pandey were among those indicted.
The customs collector had fined Alemao Rs 50 lakh while holding him responsible for the smuggling of gold.
Goa's former urban development minister Joaquim Alemao was fined Rs 30 lakh, Ciabro Alemao Rs 15 lakh, Pandey Rs five lakh, Miranda and Fernandes Rs one lakh each, while Rodrigues was fined Rs 50,000.
The incident was reported on May 16, 1991 when a customs officer had a fight with Churchill Alemao's elder brother Alvernaz Alemao and claimed to have busted the smuggling racket at Fatrade in South Goa.
Costao Fernandes, the intelligence officer attached to the Customs House at Mormugao, claimed to have received credible information that the Alemao brothers and their associates were planning to smuggle a huge quantity of gold into the country.
On the same day, Costao Fernandes chased and stopped Alvernaz Alemao with the "smuggled gold". In the ensuing scuffle and knife-fight, Alvernaz Alemao was grievously hurt and later succumbed to his injuries.