VACB raids find large-scale irregularities in vehicle entry records

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), on Friday, said it detected large-scale smuggling of illicit spirit into the State from Tamil Nadu through various border check-posts to meet the colossal “black market demand” for cheap liquor this festival season.

On Thursday midnight, the Pulikeezhu police seized 4,725 litres of spirit kept in a concealed cavity in a lorry (KL-01-AC-1630) at Chathankary, near Thiruvalla. Pramod, 24, of Thalavady was arrested in this connection. He had told the police that the consignment was intended for Prakash and Shibu of Thalavady.

‘Onam Bribe’

The VACB, which raided major check-posts on Friday as part of its operation code-named “Onam Bribe,” found that Excise, Sales Tax and Transport department officials at the Aryankavu check-post had “inspected the vehicle separately, authenticated its cargo as non-taxable salt and allowed it to enter the State at 12.45 p.m. on Wednesday.”

Officers’ role

They found that the van with its “cargo of salt” had passed the check-post on August 6 and 12 when the same set of officials was on duty. On August 6, officials at the Excise check-post did not register the entry of the vehicle into the State.

But Sales Tax officials recorded its entry the same day and authenticated its cargo as “salt.”

Anti-corruption investigators said the record of entry of vehicles kept at most check-posts were “highly suspect.”

For instance, on Thursday, Sales Tax officials at a major check-post had marked the entry of six trucks into the State.

However, the registers at the adjacent Excise and Transport department check-posts did not reflect the entry of the vehicles.

Weighbridges at most check-posts were defunct, possibly sabotaged by smugglers or their middlemen.

VACB officials said similar methods were used to smuggle poultry, vegetables, tiles, bricks, construction-grade steel, cement, mechanical grinders, water pumps, steel utensils, rice, provisions and electronic goods into the State this shopping season. They said what they detected was just the “tip of the iceberg.” Some traders remitted tax in advance to import marble, flooring tiles, iron and steel and bribed check-post officials to bring in more goods than for which they had remitted duty.

They cheated the government by understating the weight of the imported goods in the advance tax receipt issued to them and often used the same set of invoices and delivery notes to import goods repeatedly in different vehicles.

Some declared their trucks as empty to avoid paying duty at check-posts.

The public exchequer lost over Rs.150 crore annually with border check-posts levying less tax than they should on goods entering the State by road. At least 4,000 cargo trucks enter the State through its five major check-posts — Amaravila, Aryankavu, Walayar, Muthanga and Manjeswaram — daily. Another estimated thousand goods carriers entered Kerala through its 15 minor border posts.

They said the “fraudulent and selective assessment of tax on goods at check-posts” benefited a mafia of businessmen, truck fleet owners and dishonest State officials. Venugopal K. Nair, Director General of Police, Vigilance, and N. Sankar Reddy, Additional Director General of Police, ordered the operation.