Probe into tea auction scam

Mismatch in samples quality detected
Guwahati, Feb 28 : The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) has set up a special investigation committee to probe allegations of foul play in connection with auctioning of tea.
Sources in the industry said the probe was ordered after it came to light that there were mismatches between the quality of samples put up at the auctions and the actual tea sold thereafter, which was inferior. Besides, there were reports of a seller procuring bank loans against non-existent tea in connivance with brokers and warehouses. 
The irregularities came to the fore when a few buyers, armed with delivery orders, demanded that the tea they had purchased at sale number 7 on February 17 be handed over to them, but it was subsequently found that no tea was available in the warehouses.
Sources in the GTAC said the Arrival Weighment Report (AWR) of tea for sale numbers 7 and 8 had been given by two warehouses and the sampling and valuation of the tea had also been done, while there was actually no tea available in the warehouses.
According to rules, a seller has to procure an AWR from a warehouse and clearance from brokers on the arrival of tea to the warehouse, on the basis of which he (the seller) can procure bank finance.
However, the particular seller, in connivance with the warehouse owners and brokers, allegedly procured false AWRs and on the basis of these, bank loans.
“He procured loans from the bank although there was no tea at the warehouses,” a source said.
The sources said on procuring bank finance, the seller purchased cheaper tea from the market and delivered these to the buyers, sometimes even weeks later after the delivery order was placed to the warehouses by the latter.
“This particular seller put superior quality tea samples for sale at the auction and delivered inferior quality tea when the sale was completed. As soon as he gets an order, he purchases tea from the market with money from bank finance and supplies the same to the buyers,” the source said.
However, things came to light when there was shortage of tea in the market this off-season.
“Although he got the order, he had no tea to supply. This came to light when the buyers came calling with the delivery orders at the warehouse,” the source added.
This is the first time that such irregularities have come to light at the GTAC. This could further tarnish the image of Assam tea among buyers besides keeping them away from the auctions at the GTAC, which already suffers from a paucity of buyers.
GTAC secretary Jayanta Kakoti admitted that there had been irregularities and confirmed that an inquiry had been ordered.
A former chairman of the Assam Tea Planters Association, Raj Baruah, said this kind of “foul play” would only keep buyers away from the Guwahati auction centre.
“Who would take such risk and that, too, when teas are available at the Calcutta auction centre?” he asked.
He said the Assam Tea Planters Association was awaiting the committee’s report into the misconduct at the GTAC. “We will take up the matter strongly if irregularities are proved,” he added.