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Excise scams

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  15 Jun 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Scams are popping out of the dark closets of several Assam government departments, undoubtedly due to Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal’s anti-graft campaign. The Excise department is presently under a huge cloud with a ‘spirit’ scam on top of the BG Bonded Warehouse scam. The two scams show clearly the depths to which corruption has taken root in this department over the years. In the BG Bonded Warehouse scam, liquor worth over Rs 40 crores was sold while evading the payment of VAT and excise duty. The arrest of a key accused, Excise deputy superintendent Amarendra th, absconding for quite some time and presently under suspension, is the most recent development in the case. He was found holed up in a guest house in Delhi, and was said to have been trying to move the Supreme Court for bail when he was bbed. However, the manner of his arrest has raised some question marks about the CID’s handling of the case and role of a section of senior police officials. A number of departmental regulations were allegedly bent or broken by senior Excise officials to help liquor merchant and prime accused Rajesh Jalan rake in his ill-gotten gains. There have long been allegations against Jalan of excise and tax evasion as well as misuse of other traders’ licenses, but he was beyond bounds during the previous Congress regime. Things filly got moving after AGP MLA Phanibhusan Chowdhury took up the matter with the incoming Sonowal government last year, charging that Jalan has evaded excise duty to the tune of around Rs 4,000 crore in last 10 years. Senior officers of IAS rank have been questioned in the case, and more revelations are likely if th’s interrogation proceeds in proper manner. Meanwhile, in another scandal rocking Excise department, it has now come to light that permits, most likely forged, were cornered by the liquor mafia to divert rectified spirit and extra neutral alcohol (E) meant for a pharmaceutical company and a cosmetic company based in Tinsukia. The E was supplied from Patiala; nearly 31 fake permits were used to bring in the supplies over a 13-month period between 2015 and 2016; around 20-25 thousand litres of E was supplied against each permit. Not only was this amount of E excessive for cosmetics or pharmaceutical units, it now transpires that at least one company had closed down years ago. This points to a liquor mafia maging to get hold of permits issued to companies that have ceased operations, or getting permits forged — so as to divert E and rectified spirit to make liquor. This could not have happened without a section of Excise officials joining hands with the liquor mafia — else, how is it that no questions were asked about huge consignments of E being brought into the State by companies that have no need for it? The fake permits were detected at Ambala police station in Harya during a routine search, whereas Excise check gates at Assam borders never once got any whiff of something fishy! Reportedly, the Excise department lost several crores in revenue due to this illegal transaction. The matter came to light only after a Harya Police team landed in the Excise department’s office last week while following up a complaint lodged against the Patiala-based supplier. A flurry of activity followed after this team furnished the fake permits ostensibly issued here by the Excise department. Though excise is a duty on manufactured goods levied at the moment of manufacture, in Assam it is mostly about regulating the sale, manufacture, import and transport of liquor. For successive State governments, revenue from IMFL, beer and country liquor sales has always been welcome. In the 2016-17 fiscal, there was some satisfaction that the Excise department maged to raise its revenue earnings by 21 percent to Rs 970 crores. However, the State government has raised that target to Rs 1,800 crores now; it has cut down on the number of dry days, increased wine shop timings and is actively promoting locally made ‘heritage’ brews. But Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal first needs to wield a huge broom to clean up the Excise department. For far too long, corrupt officials and politicians have been defrauding the State exchequer by lining their pockets with what should have been Excise revenue.

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