The income tax department is trying to locate an export income of Rs 160 crore, which has gone missing.
Vinay Desai, a Mumbai-based exporter showed the amount as payment for ‘export’ of cement slabs to a Dubai firm, Delta Line, during 2008-09.
Desai then transferred this amount to the bank accounts of five cement suppliers in Mumbai, Pune and Vadodara.
However, when the I-T firm conducted a survey on the exporter’s I-T returns on Tuesday, they found that the Dubai firm and the five suppliers did not exist.
Moreover, the bank accounts were opened using forged documents and unknown persons have withdrawn the entire amount from these accounts. The department is looking for these persons and Desai, who has been missing.
“This seems to be a case of hawala (transfer of money through illegal route),” said a senior I-T official requesting anonymity. He added that the department suspects the money was actually unaccounted money that had been sent abroad through the hawala route earlier, and was now being brought back to the country through a ‘legal’ channel by showing ‘export’.
“This could be the reason why income tax return for this amount was filed,” the official said.
The official said an I-T team went to conduct survey at Desai’s office in Carnac Bunder in South Mumbai but found it locked. “Another team went to his Mulund residence which was also locked,” the official said. During inquiries the I-T teams found that the office and house had been locked since Sunday. Investigations revealed that Desai was operating from a Santacruz office belonging to one of his uncles.
Authorities have seized records and documents from this office revealing payment transfers to the five non-existent cement suppliers.
The I-T is also in discussion with the Enforcement Directorate, which conducts investigation into hawala cases.
The official said that cross-verification with the Mumbai Customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) revealed that there was no export of cement slabs. The DRI will also begin investigation for bogus export.
“We suspect hawala as in bogus export cases, people claim duty drawback (a monetary incentive given by the government for promoting exports), but here no such thing was claimed,” the I-T official said.