Mumbai Crime: Seizure of fake duty-free scotch unearths international link

Updated: Oct 02, 2019, 07:12 IST | Faizan Khan

Gang illegally imports duty-free bags, empty cartons of 1-ltr branded Scotch from China and sells the liquor in SoBo, says excise department

Duplicate duty-free scotch seized by Mumbai police special team at Sewri on September 20. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Duplicate duty-free scotch seized by Mumbai police special team at Sewri on September 20. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The arrest of three people for selling duplicate duty-free Scotch bottles has helped the state excise department unearth an international racket. The accused illegally imported duty-free bags, empty cartons of 1-ltr branded Scotch, bottle caps and labels from China, said the customs officials. They then bottled duplicate alcohol in bottles bought from scrap dealers and sold them in posh localities of the city at half the original price.

The customs department said the gang imported the items by cargo via air or sea route. The excise department officials arrested two accused — Mahendra Nagrshwar Yadav, 38, and Sudhir Velayuddin Thiyya, 36 — on September 20 and seized a taxi that they used to deliver the alcohol after taking orders through WhatsApp. The officials later arrested the third accused identified as Biju Gangadhar Thiyya, 35, and fake duty-free Scotch worth Rs 8.64 lakh from them.

Duplicate duty-free scotch seized by Mumbai police special team at Sewri on September 20

"We were surprised to see the packaging, which is almost like that of the original 750-ml Scotch bottles available at airports. The accused revealed that they have been importing required packing items from China," said excise sub inspector S S Amberkar. Amberkar said the accuse get the duplicate Scotch mainly from Daman or Goa.

"The accused have been making online orders of duty-free bags of different countries such as Dubai, Canada, Germany, London. To explain the cheap prices of the alcohol, they told the customers that the bottles are duty-free," he said. Amberkar added that they are searching for "three more members of the gang, who are absconding. We believe they have large a manufacturing unit somewhere in Navi Mumbai or Thane, which the three arrested accused are not aware of."

Duplicate duty-free scotch seized by Mumbai police special team at Sewri on September 20

The absconding suspects have been identified as Chandran Shankaran Katathial, the kingpin against whom numerous cases are registered across Mumbai and Thane, Sateshish Kumar and Aneesh Kumar Thiyya. The excise department has seized duplicate duty-free Scotch and other liquors worth about R29 lakhs in the past two months.

Meanwhile, excise department commissioner Prajakta Lavangare Verma has appealed to the public to purchase liquor only from shops that have government license. "I request the citizens to not buy liquor from WhatsApp groups or individuals selling the bottles at lower price. Mostly, people are not able to tell the difference between fake and original products, and fall into the trap of such people. If they stop buying from the illegal suppliers, automatically the illegal business will go down."

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