Customs department has bust a racket of smuggling agarbatti (incense sticks) from Vietnam at the Chennai port, said an official.
Smuggling of agarbatti has become a head ache for the Customs department after India placed the item on restricted list in 2019 to check a surge in shipments from China and Vietnam. The idea was to encourage small domestic producers of incense sticks which will help in job creation.
Customs officials have on Wednesday arrested two people in Chennai for alleged smuggling of 162 tonne of agarbattis and agarbatti powder in a case involving a Bangalore based company, said the official quoted above who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The importer tried to take advantage of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) India has with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to save 15% customs duty on certain powder used to produce agarbattis and tried to conceal agarbattis which cannot be imported without a license, said the official.
The seizures and arrests are part of a nation-wide drive by the Customs department to stop the smuggling of incense sticks, said the official. India and ASEAN countries are now in the process of reviewing the FTA.