Friday, October 15, 2004

India: Confirmation - "Scrap killing" Armaments origin is Iraq

[ For one, scrap from war zones— at Rs 9,600 per tonne— is far cheaper. And India charges no duty on imported scrap, unlike countries such as Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. In fact, customs officers say the import of scrap has seen a drastic increase after the government did away with the 5 per cent import duty in August. ]

Confirmation: scrap that killed from Iraq, came here via Iran
Suppliers and importers may have been aware of lethal consignment, say Foreign Trade investigators

Consignments of imported scrap with live shells that have popped up across the country are from Iraq, investigations by the Director-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) have revealed.

‘‘The scrap originated in Iraq but was sent by road to Iran, from where it was shipped to India,’’ said Ajay Shrivastava, joint director, DGFT, New Delhi, who added that action will be taken against suppliers for violating norms.

According to him, it was unlikely that the suppliers and importers were unaware of what was being shipped. Live shells in one such consignment had caused a blast at a Ghaziabad factory, leading to the death of 10 workers.

DGFT officials said that Lucky Metals, a scrap supplier from Dubai, circumvented the international law against shipping of metal scrap from a war zone by sending consignments by trucks to Bandar Abbas, a port in Iran.

Here, the high-risk scrap was packed into shipping containers and sent to Mundra port in Gujarat. Since containers are rarely inspected—except on specific tip-offs—authorities allowed the consignments to reach scrap processors in north India.

Scrap from any war-torn country requires a pre-shipment inspection certificate, saying it contained no dangerous material, said officials. There are some 23 agencies mandated to inspect the consignment and issue certificates—by moving the scrap by road to Iran, shippers have avoided this route.

Shipments from other places, meanwhile, need ‘‘declarations’’ certified by these agencies without physical inspection. But in these declarations, the consignments that arrived in India were simply tagged as ‘‘scrap from Iran.’’

Shrivastava said suppliers also break the international law, which says that metal scrap should be compacted before packing it in containers for shipping, to avoid the risk of live shells bursting.

After the blasts in Ghaziabad, the DGFT has issued a fresh set of guidelines, making it compulsory that metallic waste and scrap shall be allowed in only in shredded and compacted form.

‘‘We have also made it compulsory that if the scrap is from a war zone, it will have to be inspected fully by Customs,’’ said Shrivastava.

Scrap importers, however, are unlikely to be deterred, for they find this risky business highly profitable, especially with the demand for steel at an all-time high.

For one, scrap from war zones— at Rs 9,600 per tonne— is far cheaper. And India charges no duty on imported scrap, unlike countries such as Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. In fact, customs officers say the import of scrap has seen a drastic increase after the government did away with the 5 per cent import duty in August.

Besides, stringent checks on these imports— especially when they arrive in containers —are difficult and, therefore, unlikely.

Take the case of the consignment in which rockets turned up. It landed in Mundra and was transferred to the Inland Container Depot in Tughlaqabad.

Chief Commissioner (Customs) K L Indra said, ‘‘Customs officers at Mundra merely facilated the transfer of containers from the port to the inland depot. Our responsibility is to check if the seals are intact, the documentation is in order. We cannot open and check containers. That can only be done by customs officers at the container depot, where they have all the facilities.’’

Indian Express 14/10/2004