CBI begins inquiries into Tune fish export ‘scam’

The CBI has started inquiries into alleged corruption in the export of Tuna fish from Lakshadweep to a Sri Lankan company represented by Abdul Razaq, nephew of a Lok Sabha member, officials said.

They said no payments were received by the Lakshadweep Cooperative Marketing Federation (LCMF) for the exports, causing a huge loss to the federation and local fishermen.

A 25-member CBI team headed by a DIG-rank officer is stationed in Lakshadweep and carrying out joint surprise checks in coordination with the islands’ vigilance department in the alleged scam and irregularities in other departments, they said.

Sources said the CBI dispatched the team after large-scale corruption in the affairs of Lakshadweep Cooperative Marketing Federation (LCMF), Public Works Department, Khadi Board Cooperative Society, Animal Husbandry Department and the Fisheries Department was reported to the agency.

It was alleged some public representatives and public servants colluded with each other to facilitate the export of Tuna fish, carrying an average international price of Rs 400 per kg, procured from local fishermen through LCMF, to a Colombo-based company named SRT General Merchants which was represented by Razaq, they said.

It is alleged that no payments were made by the company to LCMF, resulting in a huge revenue loss to the federation and local fishermen.

The role of local NCP MP Mohammed Faizal may also come under the scanner of the CBI which is yet to register a formal case in the matter, they said.

Joint surprise checks allow the CBI to collect documents and other information from an office on receipt of complaint of an alleged mass scale irregularity.

The surprise check in Lakshadweep also covers the fisheries department in the Union territory where it was alleged that huge amount of fuel subsidy for poor fishermen was swindled by officials, they said.

The CBI has acted on a complaint that a large number of boats have been illegally registered in the name of poor residents of the islands and the fuel subsidy meant for these poor fishermen was swindled by public servants in collusion with others.

In Public Works Department, the CBI had received the information public servants have occupied 70 per cent of houses constructed under a scheme for poor residents by Lakshadweep Building Development Board.

In the Khadi Board Cooperative Society, it was alleged that several local politicians have defaulted on loans, while in the Animal Husbandry Department the CBI had received complaints of purchase of poor quality medicines and feed which were documented during its surprise check.

The agency is likely to start registering separate FIRs in these matters after doing a legal analysis of material collected during the checks, the officials said.