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Rise in use of fake import bills to launder money

Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB), the lead agency to check financial crimes, has found this modus operandi where the goods were being imported to India without any payment made to overseas suppliers, official sources said.

It was noticed that no payment was being made to overseas suppliers for consignments against which bills of entry— a declaration mentioning details of imported goods like its quantity and price etc—were being filed, they said.

The instances were shared with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), tasked with checking customs duty evasion and frauds, which found a ‘substantial’ number of such cases, the sources said.
A DRI investigation has allegedly found that importers were submitting forged bills of entry and other import documents to the banks with an intent to fraudulently remit foreign exchange, they said.

In some instances, it was found that bills of entry were being filed for consignments which did not reach India. It is suspected that crores of rupees have been laundered through this fraudulent process, the sources said.

As per RBI instructions, where foreign exchange acquired has been utilised for import of goods into India, the authorised dealer should ensure that the importer furnishes evidence of import that is exchange control copy of bill of entry, postal appraisal form or customs assessment certificate, etc. to banks to ensure that goods equivalent to the value of remittance have been imported.

However, unscrupulous importers file fake documents including bank of entry towards the end, they said.

The customs authorities have started using an electronic system to check authenticity of a bill of entry. ‘But some unscrupulous elements exploit regulatory gaps of the system,’ a source said, adding that these gaps are being looked into.
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