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Cops sniff a racket in income-tax refunds
April, 08th 2009

Many income taxpayers may not recei-ve refunds as a result of an alleged racket by external computer operators in a case where police arent ruling out the involvement of I-T officers.

The department has filed 10 FIRs since last August saying it suspects data entry operators of having siphoned off large sums by misusing the user IDs and passwords of its officers and diverting funds to accounts of their choice.

The operators are hired on a temporary basis to feed information into computers when work piles up during the processing of tax returns.

The police, however, believe that while it may have been possible for the operators to steal the I-T officers IDs, it is almost impossible to have funds transferred to bank accounts without the authorisation of the authorities.

Each I-T officer has a user ID and password. Its difficult to crack all this (pull off such a fraud) without inside help, said deputy commissioner of police (central) Jaspal Singh.

According to the FIRs, which name some operators, fictitious returns were processed and fake acknowledgement numbers issued.

The addresses and PAN card details didnt match that of the account holders to whom the refunds were sent. The police now suspect the racketeers have been using the account holders as fronts.

The suspicion became stronger after seven of the account holders sought anticipatory bail recently, possibly alarmed by the spate of FIRs.

The investigations have, however, faltered because the police havent assessed the amount involved, but sources say the money could add up to crores of rupees.

Sources say the case could have been properly investigated had it been assigned to the economic offences wing. This wing, however, handles only frauds of over Rs 1 crore. In the case at hand, it cant step in till the amount involved becomes clear.

During the hearing on their anticipatory bail pleas which the police didnt contest because of lack of evidence the seven account holders offered an explanation that strained credulity that they had been misled into giving their PAN and bank account numbers. The money deposited in these accounts ranged from Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000.

The judge came down heavily on the police for their shoddy probe. The investigating officer hasnt even bothered to verify if the amount alleged to have been obtained through refund vouchers has been deposited in the bank with the help of I-T authorities and if so, when and by whom.

Refunds of Rs 41,419 crore were given in 2008-09, up from Rs 40,701 crore the previous year. In Delhi alone, the figure was Rs 9,459 crore in 2008-09, up from Rs 7,673 crore.

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