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Spotlight on UP liquor pay-offs

Investigative agencies have been asked to probe alleged "payoffs" made by the Uttar Pradesh liquor lobby to top politicians.
None | By KA Badarinath, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 28, 2006 03:38 AM IST

Investigative agencies — including the CBI, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Economic Intelligence Bureau (EIB) — have been asked to probe alleged "payoffs" made by the Uttar Pradesh liquor lobby to top politicians.

Sources said the investigating wing of the Income Tax Department has already shared its findings with these agencies to nail those politicians who "received gratification money" from liquor manufacturers in the state.

The issue came up for discussion in a meeting of top officials from these agencies earlier this month to "chalk out a common strategy" on this high profile case. The Income Tax Department reportedly did not recover any diary indicating payment made to politicians from the Uttar Pradesh Distilleries Association (UPDA) office raid.

But, officials confirmed that a massive cache of documents sufficient enough to "nail at least two prominent politicians" for "gratification money" have been unearthed.

A top finance ministry official said "evidence is so damning that it will not require reference to the law ministry at all". However, officials refused to name the politicians who received gratification money from the Uttar Pradesh liquor lobby. While the UPDA has allegedly shown the payoffs as "business expenses", I-T officials said "paying gratification money in crores of rupees" cannot be treated as business expenditure under any taxation law.

Contrary to reports, it has been learnt that Income Tax Department officials have concluded their investigation and submitted their report to the Finance Ministry.

While the income tax department has investigated from the "tax compliance angle", agencies like the CBI, CVC, EIB, DRI and ED will look into possible corruption, security-related links as well as flouting of excise norms.

However, officials conceded that "it will take a couple of years" before the case reaches its logical conclusion. On the question of a second diary recovered from UPDA office in Lucknow, no agency is aware of the "seizure" by the state excise department. Finance Ministry sources said the Income Tax officials assigned to the case will not be transferred before the completion of the probe.

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