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Rs 3,500cr worth of illicit goods seized by DRI in FY23-24: Official

IANS | June 21, 2024 10:29 AM

NEW DELHI: Mohan Kumar Singh, Principal Director General of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), said that illicit trade through smuggling and counterfeiting poses an immense threat and impacts legitimate economic activities resulting in government revenue losses and fuelling of organised crime.

"At DRI, we are acutely aware of the challenges of illicit trade and are dedicated to addressing them on a daily basis. In the financial year 2023-24, DRI detected 623 cases, averaging nearly 2 cases daily, resulting in contraband seizures valued at Rs 3, 500 crore. A significant portion of these seizures involved narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as well as smuggled gold. Also, other items that DRI has kept a close watch on are cigarettes, red sanders, fake currency, wildlife products as well as areca nuts.

"Given the nature of illicit trade one major way forward to tackle the menace is the need for emphasis on global cooperation among relevant international organizations. We have actively pursued this cooperation through various bilateral and multilateral agreements. Our experience shows that infiltration of global supply chains has emerged as a significant threat, " Singh said.

Singh was delivering the inaugural address at a seminar organised by FICCI Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Destroying the Economy (CASCADE) in Delhi.

FICCI CASCADE has intensified its campaign to combat illicit trade by organising the seminar titled, Global Challenges of Illicit Trade and the Way Forward.

The seminar focussed on addressing the complex issues surrounding illicit trade on a global scale and aimed to pave the way for collaborative solutions and proactive measures against this pervasive threat to economies worldwide.

Applauding FICCI CASCADE's work in countering illicit trade, Singh said: "Global meetings and conferences have also played a crucial role in tackling the widespread nature and network of illicit trade operatives. Combating such networks requires a network of multiple stakeholders of government bodies as well as non-state actors. The dynamic nature of these threats necessitates forums such as this seminar to contribute effectively to the fight against illicit trade. I commend FICCI CASCADE for organising this seminar, which I am sure will contribute meaningfully to the global efforts of combating illegal trade."

Anil Rajput, Chairman of FICCI CASCADE delivering the welcome address at the seminar said: "In India, DRI and other enforcement agencies have been playing an increasingly significant role in combating illicit trade through a substantial increase in seizures of illicit products like gold, cigarettes, currency, cosmetics and much more on a routine basis at the Indian airports, sea ports and border points. Today, illicit trade operatives exploit technology like AI to automate smuggling processes, from route planning to risk assessment and evasion tactics. Illicit traders are also employing AI algorithms to analyse border control data, law enforcement activities and surveillance patterns to exploit weaknesses and optimise their illegal operations, therefore, development of effective deterrence against this misuse of technology requires our unabated focus.

"I must emphasise that despite the increase in seizures, these represent only the tip of the iceberg and the magnitude of the problem is significantly higher and continues to grow exponentially year on year. Hence it is imperative that we act swiftly to enhance global cooperation in combating illicit trade. One proposed solution is establishing a 'Global Forum' comprising enforcement agencies from across the world, supported by a dedicated secretariat. FICCI CASCADE stands ready to collaborate with the government and enforcement agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy to bring alive such an initiative, " Rajput added.

Brigadier Girish Upadhya, Assam Rifles, during the seminar said: "Infrastructure in border areas is a challenge but we try our level best to stop contraband and the movement of illegal drugs. In 2023, Rs 1, 125 crore worth of drugs and contrabands were caught and this year until now, Rs 1, 109 crore worth of drugs and contrabands have been seized. We keep having monthly and quarterly meetings with other agencies to check smuggling and I believe movement in border areas needs to be electronically mapped to rein in these illicit activities."

B. Shanker Jaiswal, Joint Commissioner of Police (Tech, Cyber & Licensing), Delhi Police, said: "Technology is an enabler and is a force multiplier. But no technology can be effective until and unless there are trained personnel to use it. Criminals use the dark web for transactions and this has become very challenging. We have to train our officers in such technologies to tackle the threat. Illicit trade can be drastically reduced if we are able to harness technology effectively. For example, we should be able to harness the massive databases that the government has created and take the help of AI in data mining to be one step ahead of smugglers and illicit trade operatives. I strongly believe data-driven policing is the future."

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