High-end car importers under govt scanner

Written by Agencies | New Delhi, September 30: | Updated: Sep 30 2008, 20:26pm hrs
Almost two years after it first investigated alleged duty evasion by importers of high-end cars, the government is now scrutinising over 400 such imports and has seized nearly 20 cars belonging to top industrialists and celebrities among others.

According to sources, the seized cars include Bentleys, Ferraris and also much fancied Lambrogini among others which were imported through legal channels but by misrepresenting facts.

On the radar are also a set of Hummers, a favourite of certain filmstars that were also allegedly imported through the same modus operandi.

Sources in the customs department said that the Customs Preventive and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) are both involved in the present pan-India investigation.

Officials said certain importers had allegedly misused the Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG) scheme to avail nearly 90 per cent customs duty exemption.

The crackdown comes at a time when there has been a rush to avail EPCG scheme keeping the 2010 Commonwealth Games in mind, which is expected to attract lakhs of foreign tourists, the sources said.

As per the scheme, vehicles imported to be used as tourist cars for foreigners could avail duty exemption since they would earn foreign exchequer. But we learnt that many of the vehicles were being diverted for private use, a senior official of Customs Preventive said.

The Customs Preventive, Delhi has seized six cars since August including a Bentley Arnage and Mercedes Benz SL 500, which were imported in 2005, belonging to an Ayurvedic pharma major. A delhi-based dealer of foreign cars is also under the scanner.