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An Income Tax commissioner in Mumbai and the managing director of Essar Group were among six arrested by the CBI Wednesday in an alleged bribery case.
B B Rajendra Prasad, Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), was arrested for allegedly taking a bribe to give, what the CBI called, a “favourable order” in a case pertaining to Balaji Trust in which Essar Investments Ltd is a trustee.
Others arrested by the CBI were Pradeep Mittal, managing director of Essar Group, Vipin Bajpai, accounts officer in Essar Group, Suresh Kumar Jain, a real estate trade agent, his relative Manish Jain, and Shreyas Parikh, a chartered accountant with G K Choksi & Co.
Prasad and Suresh Kumar Jain were arrested in Visakhapatnam and the rest in Mumbai. The CBI has booked the six under sections 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Mittal, Bajpai, Parikh and Manish Jain were produced before a special CBI court in Mumbai. The CBI was granted transit remand of the accused until May 6 to take them to Visakhapatnam for further investigation.
In a statement, the CBI said: “It was alleged that Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals-30), Mumbai has recently passed an order in an appeal matter favouring a private trust whose trustee is a private company based at Mumbai. For giving this favourable order, he allegedly demanded a bribe amount of Rs 2 crore and wanted the money to be delivered to the relative of a real estate trade agent at Mumbai who in turn, after collecting the money, transferred it to said real estate trade agent in Visakhapatnam.
“The Commissioner of Income Tax had visited Visakhapatnam on leave and allegedly demanded the real estate trade agent to deliver part of the money at his residence in Visakhapatnam,” the CBI said, adding it laid a trap for Prasad who had received part of the bribe amount from Suresh Kumar Jain.
In its FIR, the CBI stated that Prasad passed the order on April 21.
Balaji Trust is a private trust under the Indian Trust Act, 1882 and has its registered office at Essar House in Mahalaxmi in Mumbai. The trust also holds the trademark of the Essar brand.
An official spokesperson of Balaji Trust denied allegations of misconduct by its executives: “There was a routine survey of records, conducted by CBI at the offices of two of our executives in connection with some IT assessment orders. Balaji Trust is a responsible corporate citizen and conducts its business in an open and transparent manner. Our executives are cooperating with the investigation fully and will continue to do so.”
“In the present case, legal submissions were made to the relevant authorities on merits through a reputed accounting firm based on which the orders were passed in a routine manner. Our executives are innocent and the company stands by them,” the spokesperson said.
The CBI has seized about Rs 1.5 crore of the alleged bribe money. Apart from Essar House, the CBI conducted searches in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam and seized property documents, details of bank accounts, three lockers and several documents.