The Income Tax department has managed to prevent at least Rs 8 crore from getting into the hands of those involved in a tax refund fraud.
The department has identified and frozen some suspect bank accounts from which money was likely to be withdrawn.
The scamsters had transferred tax refunds into more than 20 different bank accounts. They used 30 to 40 banking channels [transferring money from one account to another before withdrawing it] so that they could avoid getting caught.
However, a month after the fraud was noticed and 10 days after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a first information report (FIR), the culprits are yet to be caught.
Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai, R. K. Singh confirmed that the department has lodged an FIR but refused to comment further.
The fraud, which took place between December 14 and 20, was discovered on January 12. The culprits had processed over 150 returns and claimed the refund. While many returns were in the name of poor people, who do not even fall in tax bracket, some were in the names of persons who do not exist.
The returns were processed using the department’s electronic clearing system, which could be accessed only through passwords of assessing officers, one of which the culprits managed to access.
Despite identifying a chartered accountant (CA), a vice-president of a co-operative bank and an advocate among the accused, the I-T and CBI have been unable to recover the sum—which amounts to at least Rs 6 crore—that the culprits had withdrawn.
The I-T had also raided the CA, while the other two were not traceable.
After preliminary investigation, the department handed over the case to the CBI. The CBI also suspects the role of an I-T department insider.
After the incident, the department issued safety guidelines to its staff. Employees were asked to change their passwords every week and to deter from sharing them with anybody.