The Chairman of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), P K Das, was the chief guest last week at a function in Delhi organised by the father of a businessman who was in custody last month in an alleged export fraud case being investigated by Customs and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).
On January 1, Das took charge as CBIC chief and on January 19, he was the chief guest at a Swachh Bharat function his department held with an organisation run by Ravinder Gupta, father of accused Abhishek Gupta.
A photograph of the function shows Das delivering a speech; another features Gupta’s son Abhishek Gupta whose export firm, CL International Pvt Ltd, is on the radar of Customs and DRI in two cases: alleged misutilisation of government schemes and alleged violation of the Customs Act.
Records show Abhishek Gupta was in DRI custody in Delhi in December in the Customs Act case related to the clearance of consignments belonging to CL International, which mainly exports rice and maida, at the Mundra port in Gujarat.
Contacted by The Indian Express, Das confirmed he attended the programme. “Several persons come to such functions. I am not aware whether there are persons facing inquiries,” he said.
Ravinder Gupta, the father of Abhishek Gupta, said: “CBIC officials approached us for this programme…This has nothing to do with the inquiries going on against my son Abhishek and his company.” Swachhta Pakhwada is a fortnightly cleanliness programme under Swachh Bharat Mission to be implemented by government ministries and departments.
The programme that Das attended was part of the Swachhta Pakhwada initiative of the CBIC and was held at a park near the family residence of Ravinder Gupta. It was also attended by Gupta’s wife Pushpa and his other son Abhinav, who is a director in CL International.
Among the officials who attended the function were Archna Pandey Tewari, then Chief Commissioner (GST & Central Excise Delhi Zone); and, Krishna Akshaya Mishra, Principal Commissioner (GST & Central Excise Delhi West). Other officials present were Sanjay Rai, Deputy Commissioner; Pradeep Kumar, Assistant Commissioner; and Aditya Singh Yadav, Assistant Commissioner — all posted at the Office of The Commissioner of Central Tax (Delhi West).
On November 12, 2018, the Office of The Commissioner of Central Tax (Delhi West), which comes under the CBIC, issued a notice to CL International for “wrong utilisation of Govt scheme”. The notice says that in a statement dated October 9, 2018, Abhishek “stated that they have wrongly availed benefit of Govt schemes on export made by M/s CL International”.
When contacted, Aditya Singh Yadav, who issued the notice and was present at the function, said: “The matter is sub judice. I cannot divulge any details.”
Archna Pandey Tewari, who has since taken charge as D-G Audit, CBIC, did not respond to calls and text messages. Krishna Akshaya Mishra said: “We did not invite them (Guptas). Other associations approached by us took them on board. I participated in the programme but I was not aware that there were people facing inquiries from our department.” Sanjay Rai declined to comment and Pradeep Kumar was not available.
Records also show that the DRI issued a notice to Abhishek Gupta on December 1, 2018, summoning him for questioning, and held him on December 18 — he was released on bail after a week.
The records include a communication last month from Syed Wasif Haider, Deputy Director, DRI, to the Office of the Principal Commissioner of Customs, Mundra, Gujarat.
It refers to nine containers of CL International at the port and states: “…goods covered under following export consignments have to be examined in presence of DRI. In case these consignments have not sailed out, the same may be held back for examination… If not already sailed out, may not be permitted to sail out of India without further correspondence in this regard from this office.”
The CBIC, earlier called the Central Board of Excise & Customs, comes under the Finance Ministry’s Department of Revenue. The DRI is the apex intelligence and investigative agency for matters related to the Customs Act.