Friday, January 6, 2017

AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA - In Rush to Let Off Sahara, Tax Commission Ignored Evidence Matching Fund Flow to Alleged Payoffs / Months Before Sahara Was Granted Immunity, Tax Panel Member Was Abruptly Transferred

In absolving the Sahara group of any wrongdoing under the Income Tax Act in the alleged bribery scandal which has implicated several prominent politicians and unleashed a political storm in the country, the Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) glossed over crucial evidence furnished by tax inspectors, documents related to the case show. On Thursday, the Indian Express reported that that the group was granted immunity after just three hearings at the ITSC on November 10, 2016.

In what was an unprecedented and exceptionally hurried hearing, the ITSC accepted Sahara’s explanation that incriminating documents seized by IT officials during raids on the company’s premises in November 2014 were prepared fictitiously by one Sahara employee to ‘implicate and malign’ another who headed the Sahara group chairman’s office.

“the ITSC has concurred with Sahara’s claim that the “evidentiary value” of the “loose sheets” recovered during the raids “could not be proved” by the Income Tax Department,” the Indian Express reported.

What it did not report was the manner in which the commission brushed aside key arguments made by the IT investigators that rendered improbable the “disgruntled employee” theory that Sahara put forward. Rarely has a matter of such significance been resolved at the ITSC in less than 10 months. The commission, which is usually given around 18 months to settle a dispute, ruled that the Rs 137.58 crore recovered during the raids on Sahara group offices will be taxed in 12 instalments but let the company off the hook without any further liabilities.

IT documents: Documents accessed by Common Cause – the citizen’s collective founded by the late H.D. Shourie – show that the IT department had objected to Sahara’s appeal at the ITSC and given extensive documents to show the company’s culpability in making illegal pay-offs to several public figures, which include the  “CMs” of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, from May 2013 to March 2014. Common Cause is currently pursuing the matter in the Supreme Court, through its counsel, Prashant Bhushan.

The IT department had produced three excel sheets dated 12.11. 2013, 22.02.14 and 04.03.2014 which show a cash receipt of over Rs 115 crore and cash outflow of Rs 113 crore. All the entries of cash paid to different persons in the three sheets tallied with each other in terms of date of payment, the recipient of the money, place of payment and ‘angadiyas’ or Hawala operators.

These documents are bundled along with the additional affidavit that Common Cause filed today – January 5, 2017 – in its petition against the appointment of the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) and the vigilance commissioner, which is currently pending in the Supreme Court. The top court had directed the petitioners to furnish more evidence in the matter.

The documents show that the sheets were recovered from one Sachin Pawar of Sahara’s marketing communications (MARCOM). Pawar, in his deposition at the ITSC, had claimed that he had fabricated the sheets to malign his colleague V S Dogra to get him punished by the management.
However, the IT officials refuted his claim. The officials said that Pawar, who worked with MARCOM, made two claims which were contradictory in nature… read more:

see also
Rakesh Dixit - Vyapam scam: CBI admission in Supreme Court may spell trouble for Uma Bharti