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Explained: Who is PVS Sarma, arrested for ‘faking’ newspaper circulation figures?

PVS Sarma joined the Income Tax Department as inspector in 1990 and worked till 2007 and took voluntary retirement from the post of Senior Income tax officer.

Written by Kamal Saiyed , Edited by Explained Desk | Surat | Updated: December 1, 2020 1:14:18 pm
PVS Sarma, former vice-president of Surat BJP

The Enforcement Directorate has arrested PVS Sarma, former vice-president of Surat BJP, for allegedly faking circulation figures of his newspaper, Satyam Times published in English and Gujarati, under Sanket Media Pvt Ltd to get advertisements. He is in judicial custody till December 2.

Who is PVS Sarma?

PVS Sarma, 57, hails from Andhra Pradesh, and was BJP vice president of Surat till three days ago, when the new body was constituted under the presidentship of Surat’s CR Paatil. Sarma started out as a management trainee with Asian Paints for a year in 1988. He joined the Income Tax Department as inspector in 1990 and worked till 2007 and took voluntary retirement from the post of Senior Income tax officer.

He was close to BJP MP of Navsari C R Paatil, and through him he got a ticket for municipal corporation election. He was elected from Limbayat ward, and held the chairmanship of the water committee. Three years ago he was appointed vice president of the Surat city unit of the BJP.

Why did the I-T raid Sarma?

The I-T department conducted searches at Sarma’s properties in Surat, Thane and Mumbai on October 22. Teams from Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad I-T departments participated in the searches at Sarma’s premises. I-T officials claimed it had followed intelligence on Sarma owning “a number of properties and shell companies” and that the searches were conducted after Sarma failed to provide satisfactory reply to the summons issued to him on October 1, regarding his disproportionate assets. While 10 premises belonging to Sarma and his associates were searched in Surat, similar searches were also conducted at five more locations in Thane and Mumbai. The department searched the premises of Sarma’s chartered accountant and the offices of the companies where he was director. “Sarma shows himself as an employee of a firm, Kusum Silicon Pvt Ltd in Mumbai. He has taken a salary and commission of Rs 90 lakh from this firm in the last six years. Three premises of this company was searched in Mumbai,” the IT officials had told this paper . The IT department officials also searched the office of the daily, Satyam Times, run by Sarma in Surat. Officials said Rs 40 lakh in cash has also been recovered from one of the locations searched in Surat. “There was an attempt made by a person to flee with a bag of cash,” the official had said. As the searches continued, Sarma sat on a dharna on the street outside his house.

Notably, Sarma had posted a series of tweets on October 19 and 20, pointing fingers at the Surat I-T department. On October 19, Sharma had tweeted “This is how idea of #Demonetisation defeated by the corrupt. Cash deposit is ₹110 cr,, income ₹0.84 cr & tax ₹0.80 cr IT(Inv) wing closed eyes & Settlement Commission accepted illogical arguments&caused huge revenue loss.” He had tagged prime minister Narendra Modi and the finance minister’s official handle.

Sarma also attached a purported communication to a Surat jewellery firm M/s Kalamandir Jewellers pvt ltd from the Settlement Commission that claimed the firm made extraordinary high sale of jewellery on the night post announcement of demonetisation on November 8, 2016, by accepting notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination that had been demonetised. The income was deposited in the banks by firms.

Director of M/S Kalamandir Jewellery pvt ltd, Milan Shah had then told this paper, “We will file a defamation case against him (Sarma) We will also try to find out how he obtained such important and secret documents, which is solely between the department and the party. He had directly or indirectly contacted (and tried) to meet us but we denied”. Kalamandir has showrooms in Surat, Kosamba, Bharuch and Vapi

On October 20, PVS Sarma again tweeted and tagged PMO India, saying as a concerned citizen and member of Income tax family and social worker, it was his “responsibility to assist”.

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What happened then?

On November 14, Deputy Director of Investigation wing of Income tax department Surat, Dr. K D Pammaya, lodged an FIR of cheating and forgery against Sanket media directors PVS Sarma, Sitaram Adukiya, at Umra police station of Surat city and under IPC sections 465, 468, 471, 420, 120(b).

After the police complaint was lodged, PVS Sarma attempted suicide by hanging at a friend’s house in Satam village in Navsari district, on November 16. He was rushed to Surat and was admitted to a private hospital where his life was saved. Several BJP leaders met him while he was undergoing treatment in the hospital in Surat. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Surat police then arrested Sarma, and his partner Adukiya and firm manager Mukhtar Baig and sent them in judicial custody at Surat Central Jail, on November 23.

What is the case ED has against him ?

The ED had registered an offence and arrested PVS Sarma on Thursday under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act. 2002 (PMLA), for cheating and forgery to the tune of Rs. 2.70 crore by declaring fake circulation copies of Gujarati and English newspapers, to get advertisements from government agencies and other advertising firms between 2008 to October 2020. He was produced before a special court in Ahmedabad and the court had granted custody of Sarma to ED till December 2.

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