Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sheetal Mafatlal gets bail for alleged smuggling of gold

Sheetal Mafatlal, a leading business woman belonging to the well known Mafatlal family who was arrested for trying to allegedly smuggle in gold and diamond jewellery, was Tuesday granted bail by a Mumbai court.

Sheetal was Monday remanded to judicial custody by a metropolitan magistrate and spent the night in the Byculla Jail. She was granted bail by a metropolitan court on a surety of Rs.500,000 in a case concerning customs duty evasion of Rs.1.8 million.

Sheetal will be required to report to a local police station twice a week till the next hearing of the case. Her lawyer Satish Maneshinde has termed her arrest as an outcome of "vendetta by some disgruntled elements".

He said that as per legal precedents, if the value of goods on which duty is evaded is less than Rs.3 million, then the offence is a bailable one.

The president of Mafatlal Luxury and a non-resident Indian who lives in Britain, Sheetal was arrested late Sunday by the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Mumbai customs after she was found to be carrying undisclosed gold, diamond jewellery and other high-end accessories.

Her industrialist husband Atulya Mafatlal had claimed that since Sheetal was a NRI, the customs laws were not applicable to her. According to Atulya, she was on a brief visit to India and was planning to take back the jewellery to Britain.

Sheetal was detained after she arrived on a British Airways flight from London and walked past the green channel at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

AIU sleuths, who had been tipped off about her arrival, accosted Sheetal outside the green channel. They insisted on checking her baggage and came across the large quantity of valuables. The contents included several diamond-studded gold bangles, pendants, chains, necklaces and other items.

When they demanded the bills of purchase for the items, Sheetal failed to provide the same, nor could she give satisfactory replies to how she crossed the green channel.

The AIU took charge of Sheetal's valuables, detained her and summoned a valuer to evaluate the jewellery.

Prior to embarking in London, she had falsely declared her valuables to be worth around Rs.3 million. Customs officials said the value of her jewellery was far more than she had claimed.

After the valuables were evaluated and found to be in excess value, Sheetal was formally arrested and charged under Customs Act Sec.135 pertaining to evasion of duty.

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