GST scam: VB pegs annual loss at ₹225cr from Mandi Gobindgarh
Patiala Mohali district and sessions judge RS Rai on Monday took up the multi-crore GST scam case for framing of charges against 13 accused against whom the challan was presented by the vigilance bureau. The next date of hearing is March 5, district attorney Sanjeev Batra said.
Officials of taxation department were causing an annual loss of about ₹225 crore to the state exchequer by pocketing ₹ 1.5 crore monthly in bribe, reads the Punjab Vigilance Bureau’s first charge sheet.
The scam was busted in September 2020 with the arrest of eight people, including six officials, while a dozen officials named in the FIR are evading arrest. The VB has submitted charge sheet against three officials and two private persons, while the role of more than 20 others is under the scanner. The VB has so far arrested 12 people in the case.
In the challan, the VB summarised the statements of Sukhwinder Singh Shinda and Rohit Kumar Bansal, two main conduits (passers), whose names cropped up during the interrogation of taxation official Kalicharan, who was posted at Shambu barrier, who was arrested by the VB.
“Every day, about 60 to 70 vehicles of metal scrap were unloaded in Mandi Gobindgarh by evading tax through a nexus of GST officials and passers. A same number of outbound vehicles having finished steel material leave the industrial town by evading tax. The total loss in GST evasion is ₹60 -70 lakh per day, which roughly is about ₹225 crore a year,” reads the VB challan, citing its investigations based on call recordings and cross-verification of the GST records. It further mentions that for passing a truck, GST officials would charge ₹5,000 to ₹7,000.
“Every month, the passers would collect up to ₹1.5 crore at Mandi Gobindgarh for the select GST officials. Businessmen paid this bribe in advance and was handed over to officials in the first week of every month for smooth tax-free operations,” reads statement of Shinda, one of the accused, who has named eight firms which were paying ₹10 to 15 lakh per month in advance.
In the challan, the VB has named several officials in the rank of director, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, assistant excise and taxation commissioner, excise and taxation officer, inspector, who were receiving bribe ranging between ₹30,000 and ₹7 lakh per month. “The money was going from bottom to top,” reads the statement of an official arrested by VB.
The VB has said they have made a list of 60 iron manufacturers and traders indulging in tax evasion and shared with taxation department for submitting records.