Arun Janardhanan,TNN | Jan 11, 2014, 03.52 AM IST
CHENNAI: Directorate of revenue intelligence officers on Thursday seized 1,200 cylinders of illegally imported ozone-depleting chemical chlorodifluoromethane (R22), found in a container that arrived from China, at Chennai port.
The directorate arrested two brothers, who run an import company with an office Nungambakkam, in connection with the case, a DRI officer told TOI on Friday.
The shipment arrived in Chennai port last week. DRI officers said the importers, now in prison after a court remanded them in judicial custody, had also smuggled 1.5kg of gold. Officers at the Chennai airport seized the gold from a courier who arrived in the city by a flight on Thursday, the same day that the container was impounded.
Chlorodifluoromethane, also known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC-22), is a colorless gas commonly used as a propellant and refrigerant. The import if chlorodifluoromethane is strictly regulated in India, and an importer requires to have a licence to bring it into the country.
Officials of DRI said the importers had stacked the cylinders, worth Rs 27 lakh in the international market, in a container that they had declared to be carrying calcium powder. "The importers had hidden the R22 cylinders behind crates of the declared cargo, calcium powder, in the front row of the container," the officer said.
Investigators said it was a common ploy for smugglers to conceal contraband by placing it behind or beneath legal cargo that has been declared. "Most smugglers do this to fool customs officers. Because of the large volume of the imports, customs and DRI can only conduct random checks of containers but those that are checked are checked thoroughly," the officer said.
The officers said each of the 1,200 cylinders weighed 13kg. A leading importer who is a licensed importer of chlorodifluoromethane said the gas costs between Rs 400 and Rs 600 per kilo and is mainly used for refrigerators and airconditioners.
Chlorodifluoromethane is one of several ozone-depleting chemicals covered under the Montreal Protocol.
"Chlorodifluoromethane import is restricted by our foreign trade policy. The importers did not have a license to import it so he tried to smuggle the gas into the country. Investigations will reveal if he successfully smuggled the gas into the country earlier," the DRI officer said.