Indian authorities thwart vitamin C-smuggling syndicate

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

A total of 122.5 metric tonnes of vitamin C was seized. ©iStock
A total of 122.5 metric tonnes of vitamin C was seized. ©iStock
A recent anti-smuggling operation by Indian customs officials and the country’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seen a total 122.5 metric tonnes of ascorbic acid (or vitamin C) seized by authorities.

Valued at nearly ₹100m (S$2.1m), the vitamin C was smuggled from China to India through Myanmar, by way of the land borders in India’s North Eastern states.

A DRI official told Indian media: "The smuggling is done with the objective to evade not just the customs duties and GST, but also anti-dumping duty, all adding up to duty evasion of approximately ₹48m."

The cases against vitamin C

In one case, the DRI seized a consignment of vitamin C smuggled from China’s Shandong province on the sea route to South East Asia, reaching India through Myanmar via the Zowkhatar border in the state of Mizoram.

The DRI official said, "After crossing the Indo-Myanmar border through Zowkhatar, the smuggled goods were brought to Vairengte in trucks, where it was temporarily stored for onward transportation to other parts of India."

Another case had the DRI acting upon intelligence it had received on anti-dumping duty evasion in the country’s North Eastern region. It subsequently recovered 88 metric tonnes in bulk packages of vitamin C in Vairengte, Mizoram.

Each carton of vitamin C weighed 25kg, and was labelled as “made in China”; the total value of the seizure was ₹70.4m (S$1.5m).

DRI officers further intercepted 34.5 metric tonnes of vitamin C from several locations in the same area. An additional duty evasion of ₹12.7m (S$270,100), comprising customs duties of ₹4.43m (S$94,200) and anti-dumping duty of ₹8.28m (S$176,045).

Borderline exploitation

India’s Ministry of Finance has set the anti-dumping duty for importing vitamin C from China at US$3.74 per kg, as well as integrated GST of 18% and basic customs duty of 10%.

The current market price of vitamin C in India is ₹800 (S$17) per kg, making the total duty evasion an approximate ₹35.4m (S$752,640), including customs duties of ₹14.2m (S$301,880) and an anti-dumping duty of ₹21.2m (S$450,620).

These recent incidents reflect the long-held sensitivity of the India-Myanmar border, which international syndicates often exploit in order to smuggle items such as commercial goods, wildlife products, drugs and gold.

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