PANJIM: The High Court of Bombay at Goa quashed the order of Customs Collector of October 14, 1991 and order of Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) of December 13, 2004 imposing fine on Alemao brothers and four others in the gold smuggling case of May 16, 1991 when one of the brothers Alvernaz died in a scuffle with a Customs officer.
The Customs Collector by an order passed on October 14, 1994 held Churchill Alemao, his brothers Joaquim Alemao and late Ciabro Alemao along with Roy Miranda, Anton Fernandes, Anthony Rodrigues and Subhash Pandey guilty of smuggling gold.
The said order was upheld in an appeal by CESTAT on December 13, 2004. Churchill and Joaquim had held important portfolios in the Goa government in the past while Churchill was also a former chief minister of Goa.
Customs Tribunal had imposed a fine Rs 50 lakh on Churchill, Rs 30 lakh on Joaquim, Rs 15 lakh on Ciabro, Rs 5 lakh on Subhash, Rs 1 lakh each on Roy and Anton and Rs 50,000 on Anthony.
It may be recalled that in 1991 Costao Fernandes, an intelligence officer of Customs House at Mormugao received information that Alemao brothers were planning to smuggle a huge quantity of gold at Fatrade beach in Varca.
Fernandes (Customs officer) on May 16, 1991 chased and stopped Alvernaz who was allegedly carrying gold in his car and in the scuffle Alvernaz was grievously injured and later succumbed to his injuries.
On June 7, 1991, the CBI registered a case against Fernandes for murdering Alvernaz. On February 20, 1996, after the case reached the Supreme Court, all proceedings against Fernandes were quashed.
The HC while delivering the judgement on Wednesday observed that the case before SC and the CESAT (penalty matter) were two different cases.
“The Supreme Court was not hearing a Customs case or a penalty case; had it been, then the lack of evidence before it (as before the CESTAT) would have engendered another result. What the Supreme Court hearing was a case about the prosecution of Fernandes, and his claim to immunity under Section 155”, HC said in its order.
The court has also taken into account that the trial court had also discharged Alemao brothers and others and said that almost exactly the same considerations as arose in the Customs case arise here.
Advocate Jitendra P Supekar representing Alemao has said that no gold was confiscated and the evidence which Customs were relying upon was never brought for cross-examination.