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Income Tax officials caught taking bribe

CBI swooped on officers while they took a bribe of Rs 2.75 lakh from an electronic company owner, reports Manish Pachouly.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 22:29 IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) swooped on two income tax officers, one of them an Additional Commissioner, while they were accepting bribe of Rs 2.75 lakh from an electronic company owner on Wednesday.

Arrest of high-ranking income tax officers while taking bribe is a rare incident. Before this, an income tax commissioner and an additional commissioner were arrested in 2001, in separate cases.

Additional Commissioner Pankaj Garg and inspector Anil Mallel were arrested from the income tax (I-T) office in Navpada, Thane in the late evening. The CBI also recovered cash worth Rs 27 lakh, collectively, from the houses of these two officers. CBI spokesperson in Delhi, G Mohanty confirmed the arrest.

A senior CBI officer in Mumbai said on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to media, that the officers had demanded the bribe from the electronic company owner to settle the income tax claim that was raised against his company. A claim of Rs five lakh was raised during the assessment.

The company owner fixed Wednesday evening, after office hours, as the time to pay the amount but approached the CBI officials on Tuesday. A trap was planned and on Wednesday evening CBI officers along with one witness went to the I-T office in Thane.

The owner accompanied by his chartered accounted (CA) first met Mallel in his office with the money while the officers and witness waited close by. Mallel took them to Garg’s cabin with the money.

The conversation between the complainant and Garg was recorded by a hidden tape recorder. The CBI officer said that Garg asked them to go with Mallel and give him the cash in his office.

The complainant and his CA went back to Mallel’s office and handed over the cash of Rs 2.75 lakh of which Rs 2.5 lakh was meant for Garg and Rs 25,000 for Mallel.

Mallel kept the cash in his drawer. He also placed the assessment file of the company in the drawer which indicated that the settlement would be done. Immediately, the CBI officers raided Mallel’s office and nabbed him. The cash was also recovered. They then nabbed Garg from his cabin.

The Delhi connection

The officers further conducted searches on Garg’s flat in Hiranandani Garden in Powai and Mallel’s residence in Thane. From Garg’s flat they recovered Rs 24 lakh in cash besides documents related to a flat in Punjabi Baug area of Delhi.

While the value of the flat in the document was given as Rs 29 lakh, the CBI officer said that the present value of it is around Rs 1.8 crore. The CBI officers also recovered two cars from Garg’s building – a Swift and Zen.

From Mallel’s flat, the CBI team recovered cash of Rs three lakh besides documents related to investment in properties. An Alto car was also recovered.
They were produced in a magistrate’s court in Thane which remanded them to police custody till December 18.

When contacted Advocate Shailesh Sadekar who argued for both Garg and Mallel, told HT that both the officers were framed. “The two officers doesn’t have power to finalise the (income tax) assessment,” said Sadekar adding that the assessment of the said company was completed on November 30 and the concerned officer (a deputy commissioner) had passed the order. “Once the order is passed there is no question of demanding money as they can’t change the order,” said Sadekar.

He further said that there is no evidence that either of the officers demanded or accepted money. He said that the money was recovered from Mallel’s drawer when he was not present.

Sadekar said that no traces of Anthracene powder was found on Mallel’s fingers. The powder is sprinkled on the currency and once somebody holds the same, the traces of it come on his hand.

Hesaid that Mallel’s hands were put in sodium carbonate (which is done to find traces of the powder), but no trace was found.

He also said that no pancha (witness taken by the CBI) or the complainant or the CA could explain how the money reached in the drawer, or if it was put on Mallel’s instruction.

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First Published: Dec 14, 2006 22:29 IST