The first woman chief of revenue intelligence department - Vijai Lakshmi Sharma - may not have a smooth ride as the CBI is still investigating her in an alleged corruption case.
CBI sources said the case dates back to 2001 when residences of six customs officials, including Sharma’s, who was then Customs Commissioner, Delhi, were searched by the CBI in connection with a case of alleged customs duty evasion by Essar Oil Limited in 1999.
Ms. Sharma, a 1975 batch officer of Indian Customs and Central Excise service, took over as Chief of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence this week after her name for the top post was cleared by Cabinet Committee on Appointments.
“It is a long drawn complicated case and it has been examined at various levels including at Central Excise and Gold Appellate Tribunal (CEGAT), Supreme Court, Central Vigilance Commission and DRI.
“Because of the legal complications, CBI not being made a party in the Supreme Court and non-availability of records from DRI, the CBI could not proceed with further probe. Now the investigation is in process and is likely to be concluded shortly,” agency spokesperson Harsh Bhal told PTI.
Ms. Sharma, who is the first woman to head DRI since its inception in 1957, is not the main accused in the case but had “proximity” with one of the accused senior Customs official, who has since expired.
Efforts to reach her for comments did not fructify and no one from Finance Ministry was willing to comment.
The order for her transfer as the Chief Commissioner, Customs, Ahmedabad to the current post was issued by the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance on September 3 this year.
The CBI had then alleged that the customs officials and a certain bank officer had allegedly helped Essar in evading duty on equipment imported for their proposed refinery at Jamnagar, causing a loss of about Rs 36 crore to exchequer.
The CBI investigation into the case, which was in parallel with that of the probe undertaken by Customs and even the DRI, had come to an abrupt end in 2004 following an order of CEGAT which had gone in favour of the company.
This was followed by a series of litigation in the Supreme Court and CBI Court besides Gujarat High Court.
Following the SC setting aside the CEGAT order on basis of an appeal filed by Commissioner, Customs, Kandla, the CBI showed interest in reopening the case.
The Gujarat High Court had earlier this year said the CBI did not need its permission to reopen the case, following which investigations were started again.