Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Bribes take e-wallet route, keep cops on tenterhooks

KOLKATA: 'Greasing the palms' is now passe. One can rephrase it greasing the mobile, instead. In times of liquidity crunch, bribery has undergone a metamorphosis -it has become `ebribe'. It no more changes hands, but mobile. The cyber crime section of the city police has come across complaints where bribe was demanded on mobile wallets against SIMs issued to fake identities.

Bribery , which is as ancient as human race, takes a new route. Kolkata Police, which has been keeping a track on the inflow and outflow of black money ever since demonetisation was announced, has come across the most ingenious ways to keep the tradition alive.The complaints are against officials of some enforcement agencies like income tax and sales tax, revenue intelligence and customs, who find it hassle-free and less risky to receive bribe on mobile wallets. Some cops, too, are under scanner.

Police have come across a complaint against a sales tax official who demanded bribe on three different mobile wallets. After receiving the money , he went to a department store. Because of his prior understanding with the store manager, he got cash back, with the department store keeping aside 10% margin. But the investigation hits a wall as the mobile is found to have been acquired against a fake name and the SIM was cautiously discontinued after a couple of similar transactions, said an officer. One, who is paying, certainly needs a bank account or credit account to transfer the money from the said account to his or her mobile wallet, but one does not need to have the bank account linked with the mobile wallet to receive the fund. The corrupt officials have found this handy to receive bribe without running the risk of being caught red handed. Money leaves a trail but this kind of transaction does not need to have the bank account linked with the mobile wallet to receive the fund. The corrupt officials have found this handy to receive bribe without running the risk of being caught red handed. Money leaves a trail but this kind of transaction does not after a point.Each and every wallet needs to be linked with bank accounts, only then the trail can be traced, said another officer.

There is belief that the SIM issued against fake identity is used only by terrorists. Now we suspect that many of these SIMs are used by corrupt officials for such transactions. Recently , the detective department tracked more than 80,000 SIMs issued against fake identities. Police checked voters list and found hundreds of fake documents against the names.Even the unique IMEI numbers of phones are frequently changed with easily-available software to erase the electronic footprints of such seedy transactions.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

BDA scam: Chargesheet against 2 IA&AS babus

Bangalore Mirror d 18/11/16
The CID wing of Karnataka police is gearing to file a chargesheet in the infamous BDA mutual fund scam against senior Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS) officer and former senior Coffee Board officer Sharada Subramaniam and her husband Sandeep Dash, another IAAS officer who was formerly heading the finance wing of Bangalore Development Authority ( BDA) for their alleged involvement in the scam. The bureaucrat couple will be charged for embezzlement and diversion of government funds from Coffee Board to invest in private mutual funds and afer suffering losses diverting funds from BDA to cover up the deficit amount. The CID has also framed similar charges against eight others involved in the scam with a total of around Rs 2,200 crore involving five former BDA officials and two private bank managers.

According to the chargesheet to be filed in the case, Sharada Subramaniam was the Coffee Board’s director from 1998 to 2003 when her husband Sandeep Dash was heading the finance wing of BDA (1997 - 2005). The couple allegedly invested funds from the Coffee Board through brokers in the mutual fund market and also managed to earn good commission before the market tanked. The investigators have claimed that a sum of Rs 4.04 crore of government money was invested in mutual funds by Subramaniam after taking the money from BDA, and again another Rs 1 crore was routed to the Coffee Board account. The Rs 4.04 crore was given back to BDA, but to fill-up the losses suffered due to a dip in the market, she used the BDA money of Rs 1 crore.

According to the special audit, in two transactions, the husband-wife team allegedly connived to transfer out money from BDA’s accounts to Coffee Board’s accounts and then on to Zurich Mutual Funds. The modus-operandi was: Two current accounts were opened in the name of Coffee Board in Indian Overseas Bank, Kumarapark branch where BDA’s accounts were held in 2001 and 2002. The Coffee Board accounts were opened, operated and closed within two years in the same bank branch, with a clear intent to facilitate the circular transactions. Account number ****1541 was opened in November 2001 and closed in December 2002, while ****5068 was opened in November 2001 and closed in May 2003. In 2002, in two transactions, Rs 4.04 crore and Rs 1 crore were transferred from BDA’s accounts to account nos. 1541 and 5068 in the Kumarapark branch of IOB, allegedly on Dash’s instructions. Subsequently, the money was channelised into private equities; a banker’s cheque was issued by the bank in November 2002 in favour of Zurich Mutual Fund (which later got merged with HDFC). The returns on this investment were credited into the Coffee Board’s director finance account held by Subramaniam. Since these two accounts in IOB were fake, the returns apparently accrued to the couple.

Overall, with just these two illegal transfer of funds, BDA suffered a loss of interest and capital to a tune of Rs 3.6 crore. The CID sleuths who were investigating the BDA scam took up the issue and started the investigation. “We have arrested all connected to the scam other than Subramaniam,” a senior police officer from CID said.

Subramaniam has been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 409 and 420, cheating and misappropriation which carry a maximum punishment of 7 years jail and also booked under Section 13 of The Prevention of Corruption Act.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Leaked audio clip exposes corruption in water supply board

The New Indian Express Bengaluru d. 7/11/16
A 15-minute audio clip has brought out the stink in the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
A recording of a telephonic conversation between Audit Officer (AO) D Byranna and the Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of Bangalore East G D Somashekhar exposes the corruption at various levels in one office resulting in revenue loss running into crores for BWSSB. The conversation was in Kannada.
Remarks made by Byranna reveal that the East-2 Sub-Divisional Office alone caused a loss of `250 crore. This sub-division covers Hoodi, Marathahalli, AECS Layout and surrounding areas.
“A similar situation could prevail across many of its sub-divisions across the city, with varying amounts.

The clip has revealed the malpractices that took place in just one office. What is even more damaging is that AOs who went to investigate it have now been embroiled in the corruption,” said a top official.
The conversation was recorded by the AEE when the AO indirectly sought financial gratification to omit names of staff in the sub-division in an inquiry report by the BWSSB’s audit department into irregularities at the office. Express had highlighted this episode in a report on October 20. 
The full recording made available to Express, already made the rounds in the official WhatsApp group of BWSSB and has now landed at the Anti-Corruption Bureau office too.
In a conversation with the AEE, the AO alleges that buildings were given water connections illegally without collection of pro-rata charges (one-time payment for new water connections) from owners, thereby causing a loss to the board. The officer states that old meters were being unnecessarily replaced with new meters to erase recordings of pending bills. Water Inspectors and Assistant Executive Engineers pocketed an additional `1 lakh per month by indulging in such activities, alleges Byranna.
The reasons behind Somashekhar recording the conversation and releasing it on an official WhatsApp group have also come to the fore now. According to a BWSSB source, “Somashekhar was posted as AEE just a month ago and was being asked by Audit Officers to pay up for the corruption his predecessor indulged in. The unfairness of it all must have enraged him and he decided to go in for an expose to save himself.” The post was previously held by N C Kantha, the source said.
The AOs B G Krishna Kumar and Byranna have been asked to go on leave after the audio was made public. Their inquiry report had declared Somashekhar, Assistant Engineers S B Ramesh and Hanumanthganti, and
Water Inspectors Hareeshwar and Lakshman Naik to be guilty of malpractices. Theyhave all been suspended and further probe is on.

HC acquits I-T officials convicted in lower court

Bangalore Mirror d. 7/11/16
The two were convicted on charges of causing a Rs 10-cr loss to income tax dept

The High Court has overturned the verdict of a lower court and has acquitted two senior income tax (I-T) officials convicted on July 30 for five years on charges of causing a loss to the department to the tune of Rs 10.26 crore.

It was one of the high-profile cases last year as the legal counsel of one of these officials had sought permission to cross- examine President Pranab Mukherjee for sanctioning prosecution of his client, a high-serving I-T official.

The case, when it came before Justice Anand Byrareddy, had some heavyweights (two senior I-T officials, CBI and sons of former chiefs of Karnataka Lokayukta and State Vigilance Commission) engaged in a legal battle.

On Saturday, the High Court finally ruled in favour of Dheerendra Kumar Jha, an additional commissioner and UA Chandramouli, a deputy commissioner with the I-T department, pointing out that the prosecution failed to prove specific charges leveled against the accused and also that there was no valid sanction accorded to prosecute them from the sanctioning authority, the President and former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.


The case pertains to 2008. The CBI had registered a case pertaining to an I-T case that sleuths had taken up in August 2006, wherein a team of I-T officials led by Chandramouli had carried out an inspection at M/s Children’s Education Society (CES) in JP Nagar.

The case had been registered on charges of aiding an income tax assesse of monetary help to evade tax assessment.They were charged of entering into a criminal conspiracy with SN Narasaraju of CES in the matter of income tax. It had been further charged that a key document impounded during the survey carried out had been returned to Narasaraju without retaining copies of said documents on record and ignoring the financial transactions reflected therein while assessing the tax liability.


Sixteen witnesses had been examined, and 47 exhibits from prosecution and 15 from defence had been marked. The trial court on July 30, 2016, had convicted the DC, additional commissioner, sentencing them for rigorous imprisonment of 6 months and fine of Rs1 lakh for offence under IPC section 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) r/w IPC section 420 (cheating), 18 months and Rs.1.50 lakh for offence under IPC section 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture) of IPC, and again five years imprisonment and Rs 2.50 lakh fine under IPC section 420.


The same had been challenged by both in two separate appeals. Designated senior counsel Sheshachala, son of former lokayukta Justice N Venkatachala, put forth defense for the DC. The assessment order for financial year 2004-05 by Chandramouli was under section 144 of the I-T act and that the assessment order was a judicial order, he put forth. Further, the charge – that he returned the impounded document pertaining to assessment year 2004-05 without permission from his superior officer, was contended. He took a defence that under the I-T Act for retaining the document for more than 10 days the assessing officer should take permission and for returning the document, no such permission was required, nor the I-T Act contemplated such a contingency.

Senior counsel CG Sundar defended Jha. He maintained that latter couldn’t have interfered with the judicial order passed by DC. Charge that he did not interfere in the assessment order or in the release of fax sheet, is itself uncanny as IT act clearly mandated that no person shall interfere with the proceedings of the income tax authority by issuing orders, instructions and directions, argued Sundar on behalf of his client. The counsels also argued before the High Court that the trial court could not have convicted the duo in the absence of incriminating evidence against them and that the Income Tax commissioner had admitted before the court as a witness that there was no revenue loss to invoke recovery order section 263 of the Income Tax Act. Advocate Sundar pointed out that even the prosecution had admitted that the entire Rs 10.26 crore had been assessed contrary to the accusation made in the initially.


The High Court observed that the trial court had overlooked the basic principles of criminal jurisprudence and convicted accused on conjectures and surmises rather than evidence on record. The High Court rejected the prosecution contention that illegal gratification need not be specific and stated that it shall be quantified to prove the charge since that charge should be specific and not vague. It was observed that the prosecution failed to bring home the charge against the accused persons and observed that there was no sanction under section 197 before setting aside the order of trial court judge in its totality.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Lokayukta cops red-faced as court acquits officer caught ‘red-handed’

Bangalore Mirror d. 3/11/16
The Lokayukta police was once again left red-faced in the court room after a police officer who they caught ‘red-handed’, was acquitted. The investigators and the prosecution failed to establish or prove any of the charges levelled against him.

According to the charge-sheet submitted before the Lokayukta special court, V Raja Bovi, an assistant sub-inspector of police attached to Srirampura police station prior to his retirement, was allegedly caught ‘red-handed’ while accepting a bribe of Rs 25,000.

Bovi allegedly demanded the bribe for dropping the complainant’s brother’s name from the list of the accused in a 2010 case of murder.

The arrest had created a flutter back then as Bovi tried to escape and was apprehended after a brief chase on the city streets.

However, during the trial, it turned out that the complainant’s brother was never included as a suspect in the case. The Lokayukta special court acquitted Raja Bovi on Friday as the prosecution’s subsequent claims of accepting bribe for manipulating the probe fell flat before the court of law.


The Lokayukta police had registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Bovi based on the complaint filed by Ambuvelu that the former had demanded Rs 2 lakh to omit his brother’s name from the list of accused in a murder case (crime number 133/2010).

The complainant had further claimed that Bovi later scaled down his demand to Rs 50,000 and that he paid Rs 2,000 as a token payment as bribe.

Subsequently, the Lokayukta police had registered a case and had laid trap in July 2010, based on this. Bovi was arrested after a brief chase. He had tried to escape in an autorickshaw with the Rs 25,000 paid to him, but was caught ‘red handed’.

Recording of evidence in the case had begun in August 2014 after the police had filed a charge-sheet in the case. However, after hearing both the prosecution and defense, the court on Friday acquitted the accused.


The entire case was built around the allegation that the accused (Bovi) accepted bribe to delete the complainant’s brother’s name from a list of suspects in the murder case. However this was dismissed in the courtroom after it was found that the complainant’s brother was never an accused in the murder case. The defence lawyers also pointed out that Bovi was not directly involved with any murder case as an investigating officer.

The accused had claimed before the court that the money he accepted from the complainant was not a bribe but repayment of a loan which the complainant had taken from him in the past.

The defense capitalised on the prosecution’s failure to establish basic motive and demand of bribe in the case; and claimed that mere acceptance was not enough to prove corruption.

It was brought to the court’s notice that the investigating officer in the case did not bother to cross verify Bovi’s claim of loan repayment which finally led to the collapse of the case and acquittal of Raja Bovi.

“The prosecution has failed to prove the demand of bribe amount by the accused, which is an essential requirement to prove the offences under section 7 and 13 of the Prevention Of Corruption Act... Considering all these aspects, I hold that the prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused for the offences punishable under sec 7 and 13 of the PC Act by leading cogent, concrete and convincing evidence before this court,” the court observed citing the failure to establish the cash as illegal gratification.

Former Lokayukta officials opined that the acquittal was a result of shoddy probe carried out in an amateurish manner by the investigators.
“If the investigating officer had done his homework and counter-checked the veracity of the complaint, he would have realised that the so called murder was not registered and the subsequent allegations will not stand before the law. They should act in a responsible manner, and not waste public money and resource. They should ascertain and verify facts to present a water tight case to ensure conviction,” said a retired Lokayukta SP.

The case had two senior defence counsels representing Bovi – K Janardhan who passed away during the trial, and later advocate CG Sundar.
Meanwhile, the prosecution maintained that the police would seek legal opinion and decide whether to file an appeal in the case.