<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=467 border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>Customs informers move court, use RTI for ‘rewards’ </TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3 height=10></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>Informers who help Customs seize valuables say they have to endure long delays in getting their due </TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3 height=10></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>N Ganesh</TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3 height=10></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>
Mumbai, June 25: It no longer pays to be an informer with the Mumbai Customs as those who help the department in dealing with financial frauds, often have to face long delays before they receive their ‘reward’ from the department.
Incidentally, instances of informers waiting for their much-deserved payment appear to be piling with the Customs Department.

One such informer, who had helped the Mumbai Customs (Rummaging and Intelligence) seize Rs 12.50 lakh in gold and other dutiable goods in 2001, finally had to resort to Right to Information (RTI) after all other means tried by him to get his reward got exhausted. He had filed an application under the RTI two months ago.

In his application the informer mentioned that he was taking the risk of exposing himself as he needed money for treatment of his terminally ill family member. After a month of his filing the application, the Mumbai Customs paid the informer his due of around Rs 70,000.

Others, however, have not been so lucky. An informer, who had tipped the customs about smuggling of1,314 carat of diamonds in 1990, ran from pillar to post for 17 long years. This informer has now filed a writ petition with the Mumbai High Court to get his reward.

Yet another informer, who had tipped the Marine and Preventive wing of the Mumbai Customs of smuggling of computer parts worth Rs 19.43 lakh in 1994 is still clueless about his reward. He also helped the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seize foreign currency in two separate cases in 1994, however, he is still waiting for his reward.

The informers usually get about 20 per cent of the value of the goods whenever the department disposes the same. In certain cases the informers are paid an advance, which is inclusive of the 20 per cent reward.

Usually the informers are given the reward within two years of seizure of goods, that is after completing all the required legal formalities.

The reward amount is worked out not with the worth of smuggled goods at the time of the seizure but what the worth is when it is sold by the department.

Except for precious metals and diamonds, value of which goes up with time, electronics goods such as computer components and mobile phones lose the worth with time. For instance, seizure of computer processors seized in 1997 would be worthless if disposed today.

The appreciation value of the seized goods are the best when disposed off immediately and so better are the chances of department earning good revenue and informer getting his full reward, which is not the case. Chief Commissioner of Customs for zone II, N Shashidharan, who is also holding the additional charge for zone III, was not available for comments.

Customs informers move court, use RTI for ‘rewards’