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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Mahesh Manjrekar grilled by Customs over duty evasion

Manish Pachouly, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, September 15, 2009
First Published: 01:07 IST(15/9/2009) | Last Updated: 01:09 IST(15/9/2009)

Filmmaker and actor Mahesh Manjrekar was on Monday questioned about his imported Toyota Land Cruiser by Customs authorities.

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The vehicle was imported under the Transfer of Residence (TR) scheme, which officials believe was flouted when its previous owner sold it to Manjrekar.

Under the TR scheme, an Indian living in a foreign country for two years, can bring his or her vehicle when returning to India, on payment of a duty of about 153 per cent.  However, the person cannot sell the vehicle for two years.

The TR scheme is often times misused as import of second-hand vehicles is prohibited in India.

In this case, the Customs found Saiman Ketan, a Kerala resident who had arrived from a Gulf nation, had brought the Land Cruiser with him in 2003. However, flouting the TR rule, the vehicle was transferred to Manjrekar within a few months for Rs. 37 lakh.

Customs authorities discovered this when they wrote to a number of banks, about four years ago, asking for details of people who had taken loans to buy foreign vehicles.

In one such reply from a private bank, the officials found Manjrekar had taken a loan to buy the Land Cruiser.

Officials of the department’s Central Intelligence Unit questioned Manjrekar at New Customs House at Ballard Pier on Monday. He arrived at 11.30 am and left at 3 pm.

The officials said they are probing the role of Haren Choksi, a major dealer in imported cars, after it was found that Ketan had imported the vehicle at Choksi’s instance and sold the car to Manjrekar.

The Customs team also found that after using the vehicle for a few months, Manjrekar returned it to Choksi who then sold it to Ravi Chaddha.

The Customs had seized the vehicle from Chaddha in 2006. The vehicle was released after Chaddha paid duty and penalty.

They got their first clue about Manjrekar while investigating Chaddha’s loan application for the same vehicle.

The officials added that if found guilty, Manjrekar would also be required to pay a penalty which could be anything up to 300 per cent of the cost of the vehicle.

Though the purchase cost of the vehicle for Manjrekar was Rs. 37 lakh, the department pegs the same (minus duty) at about Rs. 15 lakh.

“The penalty, which would be decided later, would be on this amount,” the official said.

Manjrekar could not be reached for comment, as his mobile phone was continuously switched off.

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