In perhaps the first instance of corruption in the GST apparatus, the CBI has arrested a GST Commissioner and three of his colleagues from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly receiving bribes from private companies to help them avoid paying central excise.
The accused officials had allegedly fixed periodic bribes to be paid by companies. GST Commissioner Sansar Chand, who is an IRS officer and headed the Kanpur sub-zone of the GST, reportedly got, among other things, a television set, a mobile phone and a fridge delivered to his Defence Colony home in Delhi by the companies. The CBI said it had also seized a “bribe instalment” of Rs 1.5 lakh, while it was being delivered to an associate of Chand.
Apart from the GST Commissioner, the CBI booked his superintendents Ajay Srivastava, Aman Shah and Rajeev Singh Chandel and his office staff Saurabh Pandey, as well as Chand’s wife Avinash Kaur and alleged middlemen and hawala operators Amit Awasthi, Aman Jain and Chander Prakash. The tenth person booked, Manish Sharma, is the owner of a firm allegedly paying the Rs 1.5 lakh bribe.
Apart from Aman Shah and Avinash Kaur, all the accused have been arrested. The agency, which conducted searches at the residence and offices of the accused, said it had recovered Rs 58 lakh in cash, apart from diaries, pen drives and documents of properties worth crores of rupees.
According to the CBI FIR registered on Friday, the agency had received information that Chand and his colleagues were regularly receiving bribes from private companies to help them in matters of the Central Excise Department.
“These payments pertained to either monthly or quarterly payments as protection money for omission of action by the Central Excise Department on such private parties and further such collection also pertained, on a case-to-case basis, to the assistance required by various private parties… In certain instances, the illegal gratification would be in the form of items such as mobiles, refrigerator, TV etc,” the CBI FIR says.
According to the CBI, the accused contacted these companies either directly or through “middleman” Amit Awasthi, who allegedly also collected bribes from the companies. These bribes were said to have been routed to Chand’s wife Kaur through two alleged hawala operators in Delhi, identified as Aman Jain and Chander Prakash.
The CBI FIR says Chand would take periodic updates from his superintendents on the “bribes” collected and issue directions.
As per the agency, Chand had been lately concerned about non-payment of bribe instalments by a company called Shishu Soap and Chemicals, which manufactures a popular local soap brand, Rekha. Chand had allegedly asked his subordinate, Srivastava, to get in touch with the director of the firm, Manish Sharma, through Awasthi, for payment of the bribes for the period between February and April 2018. Sharma allegedly could not pay and said he was facing Central Excise notice and needed relief. Awasthi reportedly then told him to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to Chand. The CBI laid a trap and arrested Sharma’s employee Suresh Kumar Singh, while he was allegedly delivering the bribe to Chand’s employee Saurabh Pandey, sources said.
The CBI FIR says that the accused officials also took bribes from M/S Rimjhim Ispat, Sugandhi Pvt Ltd and SIR Pan Masala. While Rimjhim allegedly delivered a refrigerator and electronic gadets to Chand’s house, SIR Pan Masala reportedly sent a TV set to Chand as well as another to his relative’s house in Jalandhar. Sugandhi allegedly paid in cash.
Kanpur is one of the sub-zones in the Lucknow zone under the GST, headed by the Chief Commissioner. Other sub-zones include Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Agra. Chand was heading the Kanpur sub-zone as Commissioner, Central Excise and Service Tax (now GST).
As per the Central GST Act, the powers for inspection, search, seizure and arrest can be exercised by an officer, not below the rank of joint commissioner, in case a taxable person has suppressed any transaction relating to supply of goods or services or both, or has claimed input tax credit in excess of his entitlement under the Act or has acted in contravention of a provision of the Act. A joint commissioner is below the rank of commissioner.
The authorised officer has the right to inspect any places of business of the taxable person, or may authorise another officer for same.