SUCH A LONG CHASE

Fugi­tive car smug­gler, on the run for a decade, held

India Today - - NATION - By Amar­nath K. Menon

For over a decade, he eluded the po­lice. But the law fi­nally caught up with In­dia’s most wanted smug­gler when he ar­rived by an Emi­rates flight from Dubai at Hy­der­abad’s Ra­jiv Gandhi In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Novem­ber 6. Alex C. Joseph, 50, is ac­cused of smug­gling 450 high-end cars, in­clud­ing BMWS, Mercedes-benzs, Rolls-royces and Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers, and evad­ing over Rs 500 crore in cus­toms duty.

The Cen­tral Eco­nomic In­tel­li­gence Bureau had booked Joseph and passed de­ten­tion or­ders as far back as April 13, 2000. To avoid ar­rest, Joseph, a na­tive of Thiru­valla in Ker­ala’s Pathanamthitta district, fled to the UAE CAR SMUG­GLER ALEX JOSEPH BE­ING TAKEN AWAY BY PO­LICE, IN HY­DER­ABAD un­der the name Abey John. He con­tin­ued his op­er­a­tions from Shar­jah af­ter he failed to get the de­ten­tion or­der quashed by the Ker­ala High Court.

Joseph re­lied on an in­ge­nious route to avoid de­tec­tion. Since 1997, he would smug­gle the cars us­ing pass­ports of In­di­ans abroad, re­ly­ing on the Trans­fer of Res­i­dence fa­cil­ity pro­vided to non-res­i­dent In­di­ans who can bring used cars pay­ing nom­i­nal cus­toms duty. He smug­gled the cars through dif­fer­ent ports to avoid at­ten­tion. He gave cash in­cen­tives to Gulf-based In­di­ans, mostly home­ward-bound Malay­alees, to use their pass­ports.

Cars smug­gled this way were sold at prices be­tween Rs 30 lakh and Rs 1.25 crore to film per­son­al­i­ties and politi­cians in Mum­bai and Ker­ala. Dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Direc­torate of Rev­enue In­tel­li­gence ( DRI) found that most postal ad­dresses given by the im­porter didn’t ex­ist and sensed that they were be­ing taken for a ride.

Joseph, how­ever, was un­trace­able till they came to know of his sec­ond pass­port. DRI and the Ker­ala Po­lice is­sued fresh look-out no­tices. He was fi­nally caught at Hy­der­abad air­port.

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