Catch ‘big fish’ behind smuggling, says FM

NEW DELHI : Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday asked officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to go after the “big fish” behind smuggling drugs into the country and to use data and artificial intelligence to map gold smuggling. At an event held in the capital to mark the founding day of the DRI, the minister said she had been closely monitoring the detection of smuggling in India, particularly of drugs and gold.

Sitharaman told officials that whenever there is a surge in gold imports into the country, gold smuggling also goes up. The minister said that for DRI to gain public confidence, it is important to nab the big fish rather than capturing small consignments of smuggled items. The minister also asked whether India is becoming a big consumer of drugs rather than a transit point. “Vivek Johri, chairman of CBIC, was telling me just now that cocaine has also started coming in a big way into this country. Again here I want to ask this question, is this because India is no longer just a transit country for smugglers and is it because India is now becoming a consuming country,” the minister said.

Sitharaman said that when people read in the news about drugs getting seized, the question that arises in the mind of ordinary citizens is “how many people went to prison, how many were taken to task and who is the big fish behind it”.

“You are catching all the small fries, the peddlers, the traffickers, the mules. Is that sufficient? To gain public confidence, that is not sufficient at all….Are you able to bring the big handlers of such matters who are behind the scenes to face the law of the land?” Sitharaman asked officials. “Unless at least in a few cases you are able to get those who are actually behind these operations, the constant question which remains in citizens’ minds is who perpetrated it, and who are the global mafia controlling this. Can there be a greater visible approach to bring them to book, to face the law and also be seen convicted,” the minister said.

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