India will post customs intelligence officers in four countries, including the US and Singapore, to check trade-related frauds and black money transactions.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the lead agency to check customs frauds and smuggling, has decided to post officers at India's Mission in New York (US), Singapore, Brussels (Belgium) and in Nepal's Birgunj.
The DRI has sought nominations from eligible officers of the Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) to fill up posts of Customs Overseas Intelligence Network in the four countries, as per an official communique.
The COIN units pass on intelligence gathered from overseas to assist in DRI’s investigation.
India has customs mutual agreements with these countries which provide the framework to seek information, official sources said.
"The COIN officers play a crucial role in checking smuggling and tax evasion by sharing intelligence with agencies concerned here. These officers, once posted, will keep an eye on trade transactions to avoid under- or over-invoicing of goods," a source said.
The process to select COIN officers will involve interview by a high-level committee and the final approval will come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A sub-committee comprising director general of DRI, Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence, and others will initially evaluate the service records of the officers concerned.
Another panel comprising the chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, two members of the board -- member (P&V) and member (Customs) -- and the DG, DRI, will then interview the officers based on the assessment carried out by the evaluation committee.
The CBEC, after taking into account the marks secured by an officer in the interview and the marks given by the evaluation committee, will recommend a panel of three officers for each post for approval by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
As per the procedure, after obtaining the FM's approval, the panel will be forwarded to the ministry of external affairs for their concurrence followed by reference to the appointments committee of the cabinet headed by the prime minister for the final approval.
A finance ministry report on black money had recommended the expansion and strengthening of the scope and reach of COIN offices to check suspicious trade transactions.
The DRI maintains constant interaction with COIN offices to share intelligence and information through diplomatic channels on the suspected import and export transactions to establish cases of mis-declaration, which are intricately linked with tax evasion and money laundering.
"The scope and reach of COIN offices should be further expanded and strengthened. Customs officers should be stationed in major trading partner countries to liaise with customs authorities of those countries and cause verification of suspicious trade transactions," the report had said.
The finance ministry had earlier also proposed to set up seven such overseas intelligence units.
The proposal for creation of COIN units -- three in Colombo and one each in Dhaka, Bangkok, Beijing and Guangzhou -- is being considered by the government, the sources said.
COIN officers are posted at select locations across the globe.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com.