A 72-year-old Mumbai businessman paid Rs 3.5 lakh as bait money on the CBI’s advice to entrap a senior taxman demanding bribes from him in December 2013. More than three years on, JP Vaghani said the central investigating agency is yet to return his hard-earned cash.
The corrupt official — income tax joint commissioner Sanjeev Ghei, posted in Thane — was nailed, and the CBI kept the decoy cash in its custody as proof to show during trial.
Vaghani said on Wednesday that such cash is either destroyed or stored, and the government usually pays a refund to the owner within three months of an operation.
“A person fighting corruption should not be harassed,” said the man who has been involved in several cases of exposing graft-tainted officials before.
Ghei had allegedly put the tax returns of Vaghani, owner of JP Electronics, a major consumer electronics distributor in Mumbai, under scrutiny by raising doubts on claims of business losses.
The businessman said the official accused him of tax evasion, and approached him through a chartered account to demand a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to “settle the case”.
Vaghani didn’t give in. He went to the CBI’s Mumbai office in Worli and alerted the officers about the demand.
A plot was hatched to trap the taxman and CBI officers made him talk to Ghei over the phone. The conversation was recorded. On Vaghani’s request, Ghei brought down the bribe amount to Rs 3.5 lakh.
The businessman then withdrew money from his bank account and went to an assigned place to pay the bribe. CBI officers were already waiting and Ghei was caught red-handed accepting the money.
The CBI took the corrupt official into custody as well as the decoy cash that rightfully belonged to Vaghani. The money was kept as evidence.
Ghei’s trial began long ago but Vaghani has yet to get back his money.
“I had to go several times to the Thane sessions court, which is hearing the case. But hearings have been adjourned about seven times and no final order has come till today. The complainant is entitled to get the refund within three months,” the businessman said.
Vaghani, who owns two showrooms in Mumbai, said the nature of his business attracts demands for bribe often and he has been part of at least nine entrapments so far.
“I had worked with the Mumbai anti-corruption bureau whenever somebody asked me to pay a bribe. The money used for trapping corrupt officials would be returned in three months. But my experience with the CBI is different.”
He alleged that the CBI delayed paying him the money for a similar case against a senior government official in 2006.
“I got back the money in 2011. I still had energy then to go to the court and demand my money. Now I am old,” he said.
The bait cash is returned after the complainant writes to the court, requesting that the money be released. The court requires a clearance from the CBI, which can do so after filing a charge-sheet in the case concerned.
“The CBI filed a charge-sheet in 2015, but I was not informed. Last July I requested the court to release the money. The CBI gave its clearance last October, but I have yet to get my money.”
The CBI has yet to respond to HT’s queries for its comments.