Betel nuts smuggling case: Accused Bawla sent to 8-day ED custody


Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) A special PMLA court here on Friday sent alleged betel nuts mafia Wasim Bawla to eight days Enforcement Directorate custody.

Bawla was arrested by the ED on Thursday under the provisions of the PMLA Act, 2002 in connection with the ongoing investigation into the smuggling of foreign-origin betel nuts via the India-Myanmar border using shell entities based in the northeast without payment of customs duty.

The arrest came after the financial probe agency had initiated a money-laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered by the CBI and the ACB in Nagpur against various traders in Nagpur, who were procuring foreign-origin betel nuts.

“The agency conducted searches at the premises of various persons and during the searches, various incriminating documents and electronic devices were also seized,” said a senior ED official, adding that the investigation revealed that large amounts were transferred to a few Assam-based parties and ultimately withdrawn in cash which was suspected to be used for purchase of smuggled foreign origin betel nuts.

According to ED, the foreign-origin betel nuts were transported to Nagpur by fabricating domestic invoices, transportation bills etc.

“The probe revealed that Bawla was actively involved in smuggling of foreign-origin betel nuts through his active association with traders from Assam, transporters, warehouse owners, and shell entities which lent bogus invoices to facilitate the sale purchase of betel nuts in Nagpur region,” said the official.

The official also claimed that Bawla had made all the efforts to evade ED investigation by changing phones frequently, not responding to ED’s summons, and not participating in the search proceedings despite being in Nagpur.

“Further, Bawla had used ill-gotten proceeds of smuggling to get secret official documents by bribing contractual staff of ED. Bawla had given contradictory answers in his statements and his conduct is evasive and untruthful,” said the official.


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