Courier company will return money to the chess players: Kiren Rijiju

Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju on Saturday said he was upset at the news of Indian chess team members having to pay customs duty to get their FIDE Online Olympiad gold medals.

In a tweet Rijiju said, “I’m very upset with this news. My office has already reached out to the athletes. It was a case of misunderstanding between customs and courier company. The issue has been resolved. The company has acknowledged the slip-up and will return the money to the athlete Srinath Narayanan.”

India and Russia shared the gold as they were declared joint winners of the FIDE Online Olympiad.

The victorious Indian chess team consisted of Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (captain), Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Koneru Humpy, Dronavalli Harika, Aravindh Chithambaram, Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa, R Vaishali, Bhakti Kulkarni, Divya Deshmukh, Vantika Agarwal and Srinath Narayanan.

Team’s non-playing captain Grandmaster (GM) Srinath Narayanan had told IANS that he had paid customs duty for the 12 medals to DHL and received the medals.

Narayanan also told IANS that he had given a letter to DHL addressed to the Customs Department, Bengaluru, mentioning what the medals were.

Normally, customs duty is exempted for Indian sportspersons returning from overseas after winning medals in international sporting events.

Neither the DHL Express India Ltd nor the non-playing captain of the Indian chess team that won the FIDE Online Olympiad gold medal claimed any exemption from customs duty for the medals received from Russia, the Commissioner of Customs (Airport), Chennai I, had told IANS.

“The Bill of Entry was filled on November 28 by DHL Express India Ltd on behalf of (Grandmaster) Srinath Narayanan, the non-playing captain of the Indian chess team, in Chennai Customs (Courier Import) for the clearance of 12 medals for Online Chess Olympiad coming from Korshunov Maxim Alexandrovich, Russia,” the Commissioner of Customs clarified to IANS.

According to the official, the Bill of Entry was presented to the Customs assessing officer for assessment on November 30 by DHL and the same day it was assessed and the goods were cleared on the basis of the facts presented in the Bill of Entry.

“While filling the Bill of Entry, the DHL neither claimed any notification benefit, nor did it approach the Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Courier, by mail or personally for claiming exemption as provided in the notification no. 41/2017-Cus dated June 30, 2017,” he said.

The official also said the invoice claimed that the import was for personal use and Srinath Narayanan had not given any declaration/letter for claiming the notification exemption benefit.

“The shipment was filed on merit rate of duty which comes to Rs 5,533. Accordingly, the Bill of Entry was assessed on November 30 and was cleared on the same day,” the Commissioner of Customs clarified.

“The Indian team comprised 13 members, including me. Today I got 12 medals and paid customs duty of Rs 6,300 for all the medals. I paid the courier company DHL which had already paid the duty,” Narayanan had told IANS on Wednesday.

According to Narayanan, GM Pentala Harikrishna got his medal last month as he lives outside India.