Cricket tax raid roar after long snooze
Dalmiya business under scanner
Alliance lands, rolls into sickbay
Calcutta weather

 
 
CRICKET TAX RAID ROAR AFTER LONG SNOOZE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 20 
Income-tax authorities today launched nationwide raids on top cricketers, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials and some known bookies in the first concerted move to uncover the match-fixing scandal after the Hansie Cronje tapes were released in early April.

However, the raids come two months too late following the preliminary inquiry lodged by the CBI and after the income-tax department was asked to probe a part of the match-fixing allegations in early May.

Raids were simultaneously carried out at 84 premises throughout the country and included the residences of Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, Nikhil Chopra, Navjyot Sidhu and even Manoj Prabhakar, the man who tried to expose the alleged involvement of top cricket stars.

Income-tax sleuths also swooped down on former International Cricket Council (ICC) president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s residence in Calcutta and raided WorldTel chief Mark Mascarenhas’ establishments in Bangalore.

Minister of state for finance V. Dhananjaya Kumar said in Bangalore that the operation would continue tomorrow. Kumar said the income-tax investigators were being “actively assisted by CBI officials”.

Kumar said Mascarenhas’ business premises were raided as “our information suggests that he had an active role to play in match-fixing”. He named the WorldTel boss and Sugan Mehta of Mumbai as the two “bookies” whose premises had been subjected to searches.

The residence of former actress and Azharuddin’s wife Sangeeta Bijlani and her father’s premises in Mumbai were also raided. The BCCI office in Mumbai and the Jaipur residence of senior Board functionary Kishore Rungta came under scrutiny as well.

The minister said investigators sealed 16 bank lockers belonging to these “suspected persons” and seized “many incriminating documents”.

In Mumbai, a substantial amount of jewellery, liquid cash and several documents relating to properties owned by some of the players were recovered. Department sources are not prepared to disclose from whose homes the seizures were made.

Income-tax director-general (investigations) S.K. Pasricha said the raids were conducted to uncover if the cricketers and officials had stashed away any “untaxed money”. He said his department had “accurate information” on cricketers possessing untaxed money and, therefore, went ahead with the raids.

However, income-tax sources were sceptical on pinning down some of the players and officials and felt that “three months is a long time to stash away concealed incomes and related documents”.

The junior finance minister sought to justify the delay in the crackdown. “You have to imagine the magnitude of this operation. Unless we collect cogent evidence, we don’t do that,” Kumar said.

Pasricha said once the raids are over and investigations completed, the department will hand over recovered documents to the CBI. He added that the department will assess the returns filed by the cricketers and BCCI officials and match them with the sources of income.

“Any undeclared income may give us the clue that it was derived from illegitimate sources,” he said.

Thirty-six of the 84 premises raided — the operation was continuing until late tonight — were in Delhi. Among these was the Sundarnagar residence of Kapil Dev and his farmhouse on the outskirts of the capital, Chopra’s Defence Colony house in South Delhi and Prabhakar’s Nehru Enclave apartment.

The investigators were learnt to have been searching for documents at Jadeja and Ajay Sharma’s houses in Greater Kailash and Vasant Kunj respectively. Sidhu’s Patiala home was searched.

Azharuddin’s flat in Mumbai’s posh Bandra locality and a house in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills were raided. The sleuths had to break open the lock to Azhar’s Bandra flat and are believed to have recovered several property-related documents.

His wife’s residence in Juhu was searched and more papers were recovered. Three places were raided in Ahmedabad. The residences and offices of several Delhi-based bookies were raided.

Most of the information on the bookies and cricketers is believed to have been provided by Mukesh Gupta, who was named by Cronje as the bookie from whom he took his first bribe during a meeting arranged by Azhar.    


 
 
DALMIYA BUSINESS UNDER SCANNER 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 20 
Income-tax department sleuths searched the homes and offices of Jagmohan Dalmiya since early this morning after prima facie evidence that he has “not disclosed all his income”.

Nearly 100 officers of the I-T investigation wing led units in 40 premises linked to Dalmiya. These premises are in five cities — Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Bangalore. But the most intensive operation was carried out in Calcutta.

Though the I-T action is clearly a part of a major drive in which the CBI too is involved, revenue officials say the search and seizure on Dalmiya’s properties are not part of the investigation into match-fixing. “There might have been some coordination, but our main focus is on his construction business,” said the director-general (I-T, investigation), S.C. Mishra.

The I-T department recorded Dalmiya’s preliminary statement in New Delhi at 8.30 am. Through the day Dalmiya was inaccessible to the press. His cellular phone was switched off and he was taking calls in his hotel room only from government agencies and close associates. Mishra said Dalmiya was “cooperative”.

Nearly 28 premises in Calcutta were searched or surveyed. I-T officials refused to identify the spots but sleuths were seen going in or coming out of the offices of M.L. Dalmiya and Company, Dalmiya’s construction business, on Shakespeare Sarani, his Alipore residence, his office in the leather complex in east Calcutta, and his office in the Cricket Association of Bengal in the B.C. Roy Club House (Eden Gardens).

Mishra did not identify Dalmiya by name but said the construction magnate is also a cricket administrator. “We have acted after prima facie evidence that all his income has not been disclosed,” said Mishra.

He said that in Calcutta search and seizure operations were carried out in 14 sites. The other 14 were “surveyed”. But Mishra added it is possible that “surveys might lead to search and seizure”.

The operations in Calcutta were carried out in a low-key but dramatic fashion. The revenue officials at the investigation wing office at Esplanade started planning more than a week back. They requested the police for armed escorts for some of their units only this week.

Every officer was instructed to work on the quiet. But one officer let his guard down for a moment. “It seems they had got wind of the timing,” he said. He refused to elaborate.

The officers arranged for nearly 60 vehicles. While half transported the units, the others were kept as standby to move more men and material. The drive in Calcutta was monitored, apart from Mishra, by A.K. Dasgupta, director, and P.K. Das, additional director. They relayed information to Delhi and other cities if any unit reported links and found cause for further investigation.

At every site the units visited, the officers asked for a responsible person of the family or the business. They first recorded the preliminary statements and if they were dissatisfied with the origin of a document or a valuable, they confiscated it. The first units returned to base at 6 pm.    


 
 
ALLIANCE LANDS, ROLLS INTO SICKBAY 
 
 
BY NIHAR GHOSH AND AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, July 20 
The 60 passengers and crew on an Alliance Air flight from Port Blair to Calcutta (CD 7285) this morning were lucky to have reached their destination without mishap despite a snag in the port side (left) engine of the aircraft.

The problem was detected by the pilot before the Boeing 737-200 (similar to the one that crashed in Patna), could take off on the Calcutta-Silchar-Imphal-Calcutta sector with 109 passengers on Flight CD 7286.

The aircraft (VT-EGI) had to be withdrawn at the last minute after Capt. Aswini Behl noticed the defect during a mandatory “walk-around inspection” after landing. Nicks were found in the blades of the engine, caused by a foreign object either during take-off from Port Blair or during the two-hour flight to Calcutta or while landing at the Netaji Subhas airport.

The aircraft was being refuelled and was about to be handed over for commercial operation when the snag was noticed. A standby aircraft had to fly the passengers to Silchar/Imphal after a nearly 90-minute delay. The flight ultimately took off at 12.15 pm.

This is the third such incident since the tragedy on Monday, in which 56 people on board and on the ground lost their lives after an Alliance Air flight from Calcutta crashed while approaching to land at Patna.

On Tuesday, an aircraft in Chennai and another in Lucknow of the same airline had to be grounded after faults were detected.

On noticing the fault, Capt. Behl immediately entered his findings in the “pilot defect recording (PDR)” logbook. The ground engineers and maintenance crew inspected the problem and cross-checked the tolerance limit of the defect with the manual provided by Boeing. They agreed that the aircraft would have to undergo repairs.

“The fault could have led to further damage and affected the compressor or turbine in the engine had the situation gone outside tolerance limits,” said Capt. P. Mishra, who later flew the replacement aircraft to Silchar.

Indian Airlines’ general manager (engineering), eastern region, S. Venugopal Rao, corroborated that the damage had occurred to the aircraft and could have led to serious problems. The foreign object could have remained inside the engine or broken chips from the blade could have lowered engine performance. “Such instances do happen. The problem would have been worse had the foreign object been a bird,” he said.

The blade was repaired and the aircraft took off for Hyderabad via Bhubaneswar in the evening.

Ironically, the stopover at Bhubaneswar was made also to deliver spare parts for another stranded aircraft. “The motor of the front screen wiper had to be replaced in this aircraft after the pilot complained that it would be difficult to fly in the rainy season,” Rao said.

Pilots are unhappy with the standard of maintenance. “The levels of maintenance are extremely poor, be it for lack of infrastructure or spare parts or even negligence,” one of them said.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 29.5°C (-3) Minimum: 26°C (normal) RAINFALL: 1.1 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 97%, Minimum: 82% Today: The met office predicts light rain in some parts of the city. Sunset: 6.21 pm Sunrise: 5.05 am    
 

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