In a major swoop, the CBI on Wednesday arrested an Income Tax Commissioner, a top Essar Group official, and four others, in a bribery case and seized Rs 1.50 crore during operations in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam, officials said here. The Essar Group later said it categorically denied all allegations of any misconduct by its executives and said it stood by them.
Those arrested include B.B. Rajendra Prasad, an Indian Revenue Service officer of 1992 batch and currently Income Tax Commissioner (Appeals-30) in Mumbai; Pradip Mittal, Managing Director of Essar Group of Companies; and Vipin Bajpai, an Accounts Officer in the company headquartered in Mumbai.
Chartered Accountant Shreyas Parikh, working with Messers G.K. Choksi, realtor Suresh Kumar Jain, and his relative Manish Jain were also arrested. An Essar Group statement admitted there was a “routine survey of records, conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation at the offices of two of our executives in connection with some IT assessment orders”.
The CBI said Prasad had recently passed an order in an appeal matter favouring a private trust, Balaji Trust, of the Essar Group. For passing the favourable order, the CBI said, Prasad demanded a bribe of around Rs 2 crore and said it should be delivered to Manish Jain, who in turn will transfer it to Suresh Kumar Jain in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The Income Tax Commissioner took leave and went to Visakhapatnam and demanded that a part of the money be delivered at his residence in Visakhapatnam.
Acting on a tip-off, the CBI laid a trap and caught Prasad while receiving a part of the bribe amount — Rs 19.34 lakh — from Suresh Kumar Jain. Both were arrested. The CBI said it had seized the remaining amount of around Rs 1.50 crore from Suresh Kumar Jain.
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The Essar Group contended that legal submissions were made to the relevant authorities on merits through a reputed accounting firm (M/s G.K. Choksi) based on which the orders were passed in a routine manner. “Our executives are innocent and the company stands by them. We are confident that on investigations the CBI will come to the same conclusion,” the company said, adding its officials were fully cooperating with the investigating agency.
The CBI men conducted raids in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam at the offices and residences of all the accused leading to seizure of several property investment documents, details of bank accounts, three bank lockers and other incriminating papers. The accused will be produced before a designated court later, officials said.