Sewri police have recently arrested four unauthorised agents, who were part of a thriving multi-crore Octroi taxi evasion racket run by an intricate syndicate of officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), politicians and members of Mumbai’s infamous underworld.
The arrests were made after the police were tipped off about the racket. While checking entry records of vehicles with the Octroi department, the officers noted that many vehicles had no entry records but their exit records were maintained. It prima facie gave them a hint about the possibility of misappropriation.
A thorough investigation led the officers to the four unauthorised agents, who when interrogated, gave minute details of how the Octroi tax evasion racket functioned in the city. It also came to fore that the department has not hired any authorised agents for the past 10 years.
The Sewri police now believe that at least 11 more persons are involved in the nexus. Three cases under sections 420 (cheating), 468, 471 (forgery) and 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) have been registered.
Rajendra Kumar Trivedi, senior police inspector of Sewri police station, said, “We are investigating each person’s role in the scam. Senior Octroi officials were asked to give statements and their involvement is being investigated. No one involved in the scam will be spared.”
Police officials said there are many companies that import goods into Mumbai and evade Octroi, which accounts for a major loss to the state’s exchequer. “Only authorised agents are allowed to check the vehicles while they enter through the check nakas,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
But as no authorised agents have been hired in a decade, unauthorised agents have cropped up and they strike a deal with transporters. “The transporter gives a letter to the driver of the carrier which is eventually handed over to the agent,” added the officer.
“The agent’s role is to deceive the on-duty Octroi official. For a vehicle carrying 15 to 20 tonnes of goods, he produces a receipt showing the truck carries only 300 kg. Octroi worth lakhs is evaded as the agent charges only around Rs1,000 to Rs1,200,” said a police officer, who is part of the investigation.
Police said that in some cases there is no entry made when the vehicle is entering. When investigated police found out that while the vehicle was leaving, there was an entry made at the exit gate, which clearly proves that Octroi was evaded. The driver is also given a red slip, on which the agent writes ‘saheb’ and he is told that if any vigilance officer stops the vehicle then he should show the slip.
“We are trying to find out the relevance of the word,” said an officer from Sewri police station.
“The tax money, which should be used for the people, goes in the pocket of the evaders and the people helping them,” added the officers.
According to sources all the vehicles involved in the scam are blacklisted by the BMC as they have earlier been involved in ferrying stolen goods.