The first GST-linked crackdown on angadia workers last week netted diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and cash totalling Rs 94 crore, officials revealed on Monday even as gem traders said such action could damage their business, which relies on the informal network of trusted couriers. The GST department now plans to rope in income tax and customs officials to ascertain if the gold bars, which were made abroad, were smuggled into the country.Eighty-five couriers had brought the high-value packages from Gujarat to Mumbai on January 5. They were detained and their consignments seized.
Diamond traders and jewellers in Mumbai have now expressed concerns over the episode. They said angadia services were a crucial part of the industry’s supply chain, carrying cash, gems and other valuables worth around Rs 70,000 crore in a year. Most of the transfers take place between Ahmedabad, Surat, the country’s diamond cutting and polishing hub, and Mumbai.
Though secretive, the transfers are not generally seen as illegal — the transported stones and jewellery products are taxed at one stage or the other. In fact, in many cases, a police escort is provided to employees and vehicles of angadia services. But the system, which works solely on trust between diamond traders and the services, has come under pressure from the Goods and Services Tax.
The GST Act requires that all movement of goods within states should be accompanied by an e-way bill, which can be generated from a GST portal. The document specifies the quantity and value of the goods, the point of origin and destination.
Angadia workers operate under the radar to protect their packages and are wary of sharing any details of their travel. In 1992, suspected Dawood men hijacked a van transporting precious goods from Bhuleshwar to Mumbai Central station in a sensational robbery, prompting a new security measure in which cops accompany vans and tempos leaving angadia firms’ offices.
The 85 couriers who were detained last week were carrying 90 bags containing 1,042 highvalue parcels. Only 200 parcels had GST-compliant invoices. “The rest 842 do not have proper duty documents against them. So these parcels now come under the purview of a larger probe,” Mumbai GST commissioner KN Raghavan told Mirror on Monday.
On Friday’s seizure, he said: “The parcels contained diamonds, gold bars manufactured abroad, silver items and Indian and foreign currency notes.”
Diamonds account for Rs 69 crore of the total seizure, gold and silver jewellery Rs 16 crore, and gold bars Rs 3 crore. Indian notes totalling Rs 4 crore and foreign currency of over Rs 60 lakh were also confiscated.
Gem trader Naresh Mehta, a former secretary of Bharat Diamond Bourse, stressed on the fact the crackdown was related to paperwork, not taxes. “GST officials have intercepted goods because of lack of proper documentation. There is no issue of duty evasion or unaccounted business. After presentation of documents to authorities, we are sure they will release it (the consignment),” he said.
Mehta added: “Diamonds and jewellery have been transported between Gujarat and Mumbai for 50 years only on trust.”
There are around 200 angadia firms in Mumbai, most of them located in Bhuleshwar, Zaveri Bazaar and Kalbadevi. Many of the owners and employees hail from Saurashtra in Gujarat.
“Most of the angadias send and receive parcels of diamonds, gold bars and jewellery. They give receipts of the goods transported in another city. But there is no cross-checking regarding the value of diamonds and gold bars. They rely on the price quoted by the traders and issue receipt,” said a gem trader, who didn’t want to be named.
“Sometimes traders don’t reveal the actual amount to pay less GST and courier charges. Angadias don’t report them to retain clientele.”
Dinesh Navadia, president of Surat Diamond Association, said most of the gem traders who had received notices from the GST department were from Mumbai. “They haven’t committed any illegality, and they are cooperating the authorits