Income Tax (I-T) authorities have not yet traced the Rs 14 crore that was siphoned off as refund by suspected computer hackers who used the department’s electronic clearing system (ECS).
This despite the department identifying the role of three people, including a chartered accountant, a vice-president at a cooperative bank, and an advocate suspected to be behind the fraud.
Last week, I-T authorities raided the three, but caught only the accountant, with the offices and houses of the other two found locked. The locked premises have been sealed. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also begun the process of registering a case in the matter.
“We had some queries, so we’ve asked for more details from the I-T department,” a senior CBI official said.
I-T officials said that during the raid, the three were found to be using over 20 bank accounts in different names to transfer the refund money.
“They used 30 to 40 banking channels (transferring money from one account to another before withdrawing it) to avoid getting caught,” a senior I-T official said requesting anonymity.
A large part of the siphoned amount was withdrawn from a private bank.
The I-T department is now checking on the PAN card details used to swindle an amount as large as this.
The authorities suspect that more than 50 PAN card numbers were used. Some PAN card numbers were obtained by offering money to people whose incomes are too little to be taxed and who therefore do not file returns. Some PAN card numbers were also created using forged details.
The three then filed bogus returns electronically in these people’s names and showed excess tax payment to later claim these refunds.
They then entered the department’s ECS using the password — suspected to have been stolen — of an assessing officer and instructed the system to process the returns. The system automatically directed the I-T department’s bank to transfer the refund amount to the accounts of the three.
The trio reportedly entered the ECS using computers inside the I-T department’s office in the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
The fraud is suspected to have been executed between December 14 and December 20. The CBI has scanned some computers suspected to have been used for this.
The three accused had also taken blank signed cheques from those non-taxable individuals and used them to transfer the refunds to other accounts. They were paid Rs 5,000 for their PAN card details, and given a commission of 2 to 3 per cent (of the refund amount) after the refund was transferred to their accounts.
The accused convinced many of the individuals to share their PAN card details by describing it as a financial scheme that would earn them a commission.