Rs 10 crore haul: Income Tax Deptt fumbles, leaves probe midway?

Nagpur: In a dubious turn of events, the Income Tax Department seems to have fumbled in its investigation into the seizer of Rs 10 crore from a vehicle on Nagpur-Hyderabad Road recently.

It may be recalled, based on the statement of the driver of the vehicle, the cash was allegedly linked to city-based supari trader Prakash Wadhwani. As the investigations moved further, the IT officials searched the locker business of Wadhwani in Maskasath area. However, in the entire week, only 10 percent lockers were searched. Shockingly, as the investigation was underway, the IT officials received an order from top brass around 3 pm on Monday asking them to seal the lockers and return as the atmosphere was getting ‘dreadful.’ Following the diktat, the IT officials sealed the lockers and returned ‘empty handed.’ On the other hand, Wadhwani was found warning the locker holders that they were misusing the lockers.

According to sources, Wadhwani and over a dozen others are allegedly involved in blackmarketing of supari (betel nut). As import of supari draws 108 percent duty, the supari mafia export supari to SAARC countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries to escape the duty. Later, papers are tampered with in that countries and supari is sent to Kolkata by road and Andhra Pradesh by sea route showing the stuff as local. The supari is then brought to Nagpur through dalals, sources said.

Sources further said that the Rs 10 crore were seized after a tip off by a person who was close to Wadhwani. Enquiries led the IT officials that the money belonged to Wadhwani. Subsequently, Income Tax Department conducted search and seizure operations at Wadhwani’s trading offices at Ramdaspeth, Itwari and Kalamna, cold storage in Kalamna and residence in Ramdaspeth. Investigation had revealed that the cold storage at Kalamna market yard was constructed on illegal land. A huge stock of supari and other material was found stocked in cold storage. Searches at officer showed Wadhwani has locker business in Maskasath.

The lockers are used by 75 percent local supari traders and other businessmen. Sources said that the lockers contained cash in lakhs and incriminating documents. However, on the day of IT raid, Wadhwani reportedly closed the locker business a day before at 7 pm instead of usual 10 pm. It is being suspected that a “deal” was struck between IT officials and Wadhwani, sources said.

On Monday, the investigating officials left the job incomplete and returned reportedly on the orders of top officials. Sources also said, the Income Tax Department is trying to investigate the case whether the ready-cash of Rs 10 crore seized on Nagpur Hyderabad Road in a vehicle has some links with Wadhwani. All the banks accounts and lockers were sealed till further orders. But why the officials of Income Tax Department were asked to leave the job in the middle of investigations? Who was creating obstacles in the investigations? These are pertinent questions and answers lie with the Income Tax Department alone.