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Octroi vigilance unearths Rs 19 lakh fraud

The drive of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to plug the loopholes in its octroi collection department has begun to pay off well from the
start of the drive since June this year. The octroi vigilance department has begun catching big fishes that used to escape the octroi tax net and some octroi officials are also likely to get caught up in the net for allowing the irregularities to take place.

The department unearthed a major scam involving the evasion of octroi at the Kalyan Phata and Shil Phata octroi collection posts on August 1. The persons involved in the scam used to pass goods laden vehicles into the city limits from the two nakas upon the production of bogus receipts of octroi payment and never used to get caught till now.

Arvind Akashi, the Assistant Municipal Commissioner (AMC) in charge of the octroi vigilance wing informed Thane Plus that he came across copies of some fake octroi tax payment receipts from Sana Agency, a licensed distributor of the soft drinks giant Pepsi. The agency had submitted the receipts to the giant and claimed refund of payment of octroi on the import of the soft drinks into Thane.

"We enquired the receipts and came to know that they were fake. We then sought with the company management to give us original copies of the receipts so that criminal of cheating and forgery can be filed against the accused," the AMC said. He added that the company gave ten original receipts reportedly issued between April 1, 2008 and March 31, this year.

All the receipts were found to be counterfeit in almost all respects. The paper used in the printing of the fake receipts was of a different quality than that of the original TMC receipts and so was the Marathi language font of the printing. Besides this the monogram and logo of the corporation printed in the centre of the receipt was also put up in a blurred way in the bogus receipts and was distinguishable readily from that of the original one.

The department came to know that the Shil Phata based agency had imported soft drinks to the tune of Rs 4.71 crore in the previous financial year and was supposed to pay around Rs 18.85 lakh by way of octroi tax to the TMC at the rate of four percent of the cost of imports. The vigilance officials also came to know that the agency had changed its name to Sweety Agency some one month ago and the intention of the change was not known.

The vigilance officials then filed a complaint of cheating with forgery of civic documents, misuse of logo signs and forgery of signature of octroi officials against the owner of the agency. The Daighar police registered the case under thirteen different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on August 1 and have begun the investigations. One person is known to have been taken into custody so far.

The civic administration is strongly of the view that the octroi clearing agent of the agency could be the main culprit behind the scam. It is also said that the octroi officials posted at the Kalyan Phata and Shil Phata octroi nakas could be hand in glove with the culprits to allow the irregularities to take place. The belief is in the wake of the fact that it is almost impossible for any goods laden vehicle to drive into the city without payment of octroi by showing bogus octroi payment receipts to the naka officials.

The AMC made it clear that he has called upon the police to book everyone found involved in the racket even if the accused were civic officials also. "We want to put an end to the practice and make sure that all goods laden vehicles bound for the city pay their due octroi at all the octroi collection posts and the officials posted at the nakas also do their duties honestly," the AMC further added.

It may be noted that three lower level staffers posted at the Kalva octroi collection post were suspended from service after being found involved in octroi evasion racket along with transporters. The detection was made by the AMC and his superiors during a visit to the naka in the dark of the night following allegations of an organised racket.



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