Steel worth Rs 600 crore was transported primarily through two-wheelers within and outside Punjab by four Ludhiana-based traders in the past four years in a brazen bid to help steel traders evade tax, according to the Punjab excise and taxation department.
At the core of this racket, now under investigation, is a well-knit web of fictitious companies charging commission in lieu of generating bogus bills for the steel traders of the state. What has baffled the investigators is the fact that the goods' transportation happened only on paper and the registration numbers of trucks given in the bills have turned out to be that of scooters, while the companies to which the steel has been shown as sold either don't exist or have dummy shops.
"By conservative estimates based on initial investigations, the tax evasion is of at least Rs 35 crore. The four bogus firms have shown transportation of steel worth Rs 600 crore," Baldeep Kaur, assistant excise and taxation commissioner (AETC), told Hindustan Times.
Excise and taxation commissioner Anurag Verma said, "The case is the tip of the iceberg. We are correlating the data from internal as well as external sources. The initial findings are startling as over 25 registration numbers of the trucks given in the bills are actually of scooters."
In some bills, 50-tonne steel has been shown to have been transported in a single truck against a capacity of 15 tonne. Many bills have the registration numbers of trucks from Haryana and Rajasthan.
The department has sought help from Haryana and Rajasthan to ascertain if the registration numbers of the vehicles are of trucks or not. Besides, records of the inter-state barriers and toll tax barriers are being examined to determine the veracity of the details given in the bills.
The initial probe, AETC Baldeep Kaur said, revolved around "VK, VN, Manoj and Vijay steel enterprises".
Following a tip-off a fortnight ago, the department began the investigation in which it also came to the fore that bogus "goods receipts" were generated by floating bogus transport companies.
On the basis of bills of the firms in question, the excise department conducted inspection of Jalandhar-based traders to whom goods were shown to have been sent. But the firms were not located at the places given in the bills.
"These bogus firms have spread a vast web on paper to evade tax. We are plugging all escape routes to make a watertight case. We will shortly zero in on other traders who are part and parcel of the racket," Kaur, who is investigating the case, said.