April 2002 News

On terror trail, US customs to set up base in India

7 April 2002
The Indian Express
Dilip Singh

New Delhi: After the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is now the United States Customs Services’ turn to open office in New Delhi as part of their global effort to curb terrorism. A high-level American delegation, including Acting Assistant Commissioner of Customs (Office of International Affairs) Donald Shruhan, was in the Capital to finalise modalities with the government on the level of cooperation, intelligence sharing and other related issues the two countries will be working on in future. Union Finance Ministry sources said US officers would also be helping India identify trade anomalies, money laundering and drug smuggling, as they were equipped with data on the international movement of criminals, money and cargo. The New Delhi branch of the US Customs to be housed in the American Centre, will be a four-member team — including two customs officers and one to look after administration — and should start functioning from July. The US has 28 customs attache offices world-wide, which function as foreign investigative arms of the Department of Treasury. Shruhan participated in today’s seminar on Combating terrorism and other crimes through forfeiture of property held in the city, where he also met with customs officials to apprise them of the international scenario on drug trafficking and other custom-related issues. When asked whether they would be training Indian officials, a member of the delegation said, ‘‘We are looking forward to any possible help we can provide to Indian custom officials.’’ Shruhan made a presentation at the seminar, which included officers of customs, police, intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces, on how their department tracked down terrorist money and confiscated their assets. Operation Green Quest, he said, was committed to identifying and dismantling sources of terrorists funding. The department aims at developing and coordinating investigative leads originating abroad and requesting other countries to work on them. Shruhan said the attache would be coordinating with law enforcing agencies here. ‘‘The only way to combat terrorism is through cooperation,’’ he emphasised. He also said that by opening the office they would be able to identify violations of US laws, and similarly, spot loopholes in Indian laws and suggest how the government can rectify them. The opening of the US office is being seen by the Union Finance Ministry officials as important considering US officials have been sharing intelligence with India on a regular basis ever since the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.


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