The Income Tax department has unearthed a hawala racket of over Rs 1,000 crore in which about a dozen shell companies from Vishakhapatnam and few other cities indulged in illegal foreign exchange dealings. Officials said the sleuths of the department conducted raids at few premises of a firm and its owners in Vishakhapatnam, Srikakulum and Kolkata who were found to have moved funds worth crores to Hong Kong, China and Singapore allegedly in the name of “import of customised software”.
The department, post its preliminary probe, has detected instances of hawala dealing, using banking channels to route illegal money, deploying shell or fake firms to conduct the transaction and money laundering in the last two years time by the firm. “During the searches, 29 bank accounts in the names of the companies and a dozen in the names of family members have been found. Analysis of eight such accounts has revealed that inward remittances to the tune of Rs 578 crore and outward remittances of Rs 572 crore have been done by them in the last about two years,” a senior officer said.
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While refusing to identify the firm and its owners as the probe is ongoing, the officer added that the remittances were largely made through the NEFT and RTGS system of bank funds transfer. The import bills shown by the firm have been found to be bogus or fake during the probe, the officer claimed.
The officer said the mastermind behind the scam is a 24- year-old man who along with his father and others was earning a commission at the rate of 85 paise per dollar transferred abroad, as part of the scam. “The commission income was invested in some immovable assets by the company, which is under probe and tax evasion proceedings will follow,” he said.
The hawala scam was carried out by using multiple Permanent Account Numbers (PANs), opening multiple bank accounts and faking the turnover of the company, he said. The tax department, he said, will soon share the findings of the probe with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Customs department for probe at their end and has also filed a police FIR against the accused on charges of forgery and cheating.