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The Foreign Post Offices (FPOs) in the country are being used by syndicates to smuggle in air rifles, pistols, narcotics, memory cards and cigarettes among others. The new modus operandi of syndicates operating from abroad and within the country has left customs officials worried as the number of seizures have gone up in the recent times. Over 50 air rifles, pistols and cartridges have been seized from Delhi Foreign Post Office in past few months, a senior customs official said. According to the rules, only those who have licence from national and state rifle associations can import air rifles or pistols. These air rifles and pistols were misdeclared as old clothes by smugglers. On suspicion, when the parcels were opened at the FPO, the officials found arms in them, they said. On Tuesday, three consignments were checked by customs officials who found foreign-brand cigarettes and memory cards in them. Two consignments had 168 cartons of cigarettes of brands like Benson and Hedges, Dunhill, Pine.
The value of these cigarettes is assessed to be worth Rs 3.13 lakh.In the third parcel, 4,320 memory cards of 8 GB capacity each were seized by the customs officials. The parcels had come from Hong Kong, sources said. In 2015-16, 13 consignments of narcotic drugs — heroin and ketamine — were seized totalling 1.2 kg and valued at Rs 6.13 crore, they said. The sources said similar seizures have been reported from other FPOs across the country. Customs officials point out at the lacunae in functioning of the FPOs across the country and have been strongly emphasising on their complete automation. In Delhi, the foreign post office is located in ITO area, about 25 km from airport, and it is manually functioning. The FPOs are prone to misuse by smugglers as the goods are not properly scanned or cross checked, they said. What is worrying for the customs officials is the dual control over the foreign post offices. "It becomes difficult to take any corrective steps as foreign post offices are under administrative control of the postal departments whereas most of the staff of customs department (which is under the Finance Ministry) work at these post offices," a source said.