Thursday, January 10, 2013

OCTROI SCAM : In a first, police slap MCOCA on octroi agents

Stringent law applied after agents are found to be habitual offenders of octroi evasion and are increasingly leaning towards underworld

In a bid to clamp down on the growing organised activities of octroi agents in evading octroi, as well as to check their increasing tilt towards crime, for the first time the police have invoked the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime (prevention) Act against octroi agents.

In July last year, some octroi agents had attempted to kill another agent at Kopri, in neighbouring Thane, after he allegedly tried to eat into their clientele.

The supari to kill octroi agent Rajesh Chandrabhan Ghadge was given by a group of agents to the Chota Rajan gang. On July 13, Ghadge was in his office when the assailants attacked him with a chopper and also fired at him. Ghadge escaped, but the attempt on his life ex posed the murky dealings of octroi agents. In subsequent days, 14 people, including some Chota Rajan gang members and octroi agents, were arrested. And last week the Thane Police invoked MCOCA when they found that some of the arrested agents were habitual offenders in octroi evasion and had been booked by the Mumbai police in the past too.

“We have invoked MCOCA in the case related to the attempt to kill Ghadge. The matter is under investigation,” Additional CP (Crime), Thane Police, Milind Bharambe told Mumbai Mirror.

Three of the agents, Mandir Baliram Bhosle, a resident of Thane’s Wagle estate, Rohit Yashwant Gaekwad, a resident of Kopri, and Mayank Sundarani were found to be involved in several cases of octroi evasion. The Thane police allege that Bhosle and Gaekwad decided to eliminate Ghadge as he was trying to eat into their business by offering their established clients a better deal. They had warned Ghadge, but when he continued, they allegedly planned his murder, the police have alleged.

“Octroi evasion is a multi-million rupee business and the attractive returns compel the players to go to any extent to serve their interests. Earlier, it was limited to assaults on government servants, but the Ghadge episode shows that the players are also hand in glove with the underworld,” said a senior Crime Branch officer from the Thane police said.

The Mumbai police’s EOW had also arrested Bhosle, Gaekwad and Sundarani in May last year in an octroi evasion case based on a complaint by mobile phone manufacturer Micromax. Three other companies — BITS, CAH Infosystems and Pentagon Systems — also filed complaints of cheating by octroi agents with EOW, in which Bhosle, Gaekwad and Sundrani had been booked.

HOW OCTROI AGENTS OPERATE
When goods enter Mumbai, manufacturers have to pay a prescribed octroi. The goods are evaluated at the entry points, where octroi is collected and receipts are issued.

In the cases involving the three agents, the manufacturing companies had disbursed the octroi amount, but these agents allegedly generated fake octroi receipts and pocketed the money.

Other agents also indulge in undervaluing goods, so that manufacturers end up paying less octroi.

To get a rough idea of the quantum of octroi evasion, one must study the figures: BMC has a total of 38 octroi nakas at the entry points of various transport modes. For vehicles, BMC have nakas at Dahisar, LBS Road, Eastern Express Highway, Mumbai-Panvel Highway and Airoli. Other nakas are located at the international airport, at each railway terminus, and also at Indira Dock (for waterway transport).

Each octroi post has close to 200 agents operating, and on an average 1,000 trucks enter Mumbai from each of the five octroi posts by road every day. MCGM’s octroi revenue is close to Rs 5,000 crore annually.

When the Anti Corruption Bureau conducted a crackdown against agents in November 2010, octroi revenue shot up by close to Rs 1.5croreperday,orapproximatelyRs500crore per year.
Courtesy:
Abhijit.Sathe @timesgroup.com
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=MIRRORNEW&BaseHref=MMIR/2013/01/06&PageLabel=5&EntityId=Ar00500&ViewMode=HTML

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