In a major embarrassment for the income tax (I-T) department, a deputy commissioner of I-T was suspended on Thursday for allegedly leaking information about searches on bullion dealer Prithviraj Kothari about 25 minutes before the operation began on Tuesday morning.
I-T has been conducting searchs on Kothari and his company RiddiSiddhi Bullions Ltd after his name cropped up in the T-20 spot-fixing probe being conducted by Delhi police.
Sources in the department said the leak helped Kothari, who went missing soon thereafter and is now not available for recording his statement. I-T officials also said the breach hampered their operation, which could have been much bigger.
The suspension was ordered on Thursday after a preliminary inquiry into deputy commissioner GD Sharma’s involvement. Sharma was posted with the investigation wing and was part of the operation.
Sources said the operation began at 7.05am on Tuesday and the information was allegedly leaked at around 6.40am. Sharma’s role was revealed as the authorities had kept Kothari’s phones under surveillance.
Sources said there is a possibility that following the leak, Kothari might have safeguarded some crucial documents and valuables. “If the information was not leaked, it would have been a much bigger operation we had planned and expected it to be,” an I-T official said, adding more recovery could have been made.
Sources said the top authorities in I-T department’s investigation wing in Mumbai have forwarded the suspension order to the finance ministry. “There would be a thorough inquiry, that would decide further action against Sharma,” the official said.
When contacted, KV Chowdhary, member (investigation), Central Board of Direct Taxes, refused to comment.
CBDT spokesperson Kavita Pandey said she will try to verify the suspension.