After the controversial exit of Plus Max duty-free shop from the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport four years ago following charges of blackmarketeering of foreign liquor, a joint venture of Adani and Flemingo Group is now set to open a duty-free shop at the airport. Plus Max was shut down following allegations that foreign liquor was diverted to black market using the travel documents of passengers without their consent.
The cases registered by enforcement agencies such as Customs, and the Central Bureau of Investigation are in various stages in courts. “We have received an application for licence from this new entity and the application is under process. Though the case in connection with Plus Max is yet to be disposed of, there is no legal hurdle to granting licence to the new entity. But the Customs will ensure that the earlier lapse is not repeated,” a senior Customs officer told The Hindu.
Commenting on the case, the officer said the previous concessionaire had illegally transferred passenger manifest of airlines, including passport details collected from 16 airline companies, to Malaysia. More cases might be filed against the company under various sections of Passport Act and IT Act as the personal information collected can be used for illegal activities. The case would come up for hearing in the High Court after the vacation of the court, said the officer.
According to airport sources, the new company has launched works on the duty-free shop at the airport. The shop could be opened to the public by middle of May. Adani Airport Holdings (AAHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises, had signed a share subscription agreement last year with Flemingo Travel Retail Private Limited and Mumbai Travel Retail to operate duty-free outlets in airports and seaports as part of a strategic partnership.
The scam dates back to April 2018 when the Customs raided the duty-free shop and seized records of alleged diversion of foreign liquor to local markets. Tax to the tune of ₹16.81 crore was evaded by diverting liquor using the travel documents of nearly 13,000 passport holders from September 1, 2017, to December 21, 2017. Later, the Customs and the CBI recorded the arrest of a senior Customs officer in the airport – Luke George – in connection with the case. He is under suspension.