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COVID-19 Triggered Economic Distress Sees Sharp Spike in Smuggling of Goods: FICCI CASCADE

Jul 15, 2020

  • Applauding enforcement agencies for recent seizures, FICCI CASCADE urges govt to keep up the vigilance as current tough economic environment leads to economic crimes
  • Gold, Cigarette and Liquor, having high tax arbitrage top the list of smuggled goods
  • Smugglers using innovative measures like ferrying illegal cigarettes in COVID-19 Special Trains

NEW DELHI, 15 July 2020: FICCI's Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy, (CASCADE) has appealed to the policy makers that illicit trade should be treated as a national threat. Illicit trade has emerged as one of the most formidable challenges before our nation, especially during the current pandemic which has led to an economic distress. This comes in the wake of several cases of smuggling of goods such as gold, cigarettes, liquor, which have been reported amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mr Anil Rajput, Chairman, FICCI CASCADE while congratulating the officers of the enforcement agencies for successful seizures, said, "The perpetrators of illicit trade are always looking at innovative ways to deceive the system to carry out their activities. This deeply harms the economic interests of the nation and the society ends up paying a huge cost. While the recent efforts of enforcement officers are laudable, we cannot afford to let the guard go down. At a time when the country is already dealing with the coronavirus triggered financial stress, it is even more important that the government maintains a strict vigil to ensure that these offenders are kept at bay."


In less than a week, the customs officials had two major seizures of smuggled cigarettes at the New Delhi Railway station where the smugglers were using COVID-19 special trains for ferrying these products. These seizures come on the back of two other major busts of foreign cigarette smuggling rackets, first in Mumbai and second one in Hyderabad. The combined value of the seizures is over Rs 15 crore. Earlier this month, large seizure of smuggled gold worth Rs 1.5 crore and 15 crore was also made by the Kerala Airport Authority and customs at Thiruvananthapuram Airport respectively.


Not only does smuggling dent the government exchequer, by creating opportunities from tax arbitrage, but also threatens local industries on which livelihoods of many depend. In a recent study by FICCI CASCADE, it was estimated that due to smuggling over 16 lakh jobs were lost in India in 5 industry sectors alone in 2017-18. Besides unemployment and massive financial losses, it also creates large scale destabilization by fomenting crime and funding insurgency and terrorism.

In order to create large-scale awareness of this menace, FICCI CASCADE has been conducting several interactions with government and enforcement agencies across several states in India on the ways and means to mitigate this challenge.