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US scam-hit Gandhi sorry

Washington, Dec. 20: District of Columbia chief financial officer Natwar M. Gandhi apologised yesterday to city residents for the tax office embezzlement scandal and vowed to remain on the job even though Congress denied him a salary increase.

At a meeting of the Anacostia Coordinating Council in Ward 8, Gandhi told two dozen community leaders that he realises that the public has lost confidence in his office.

“More than anything, I want to say how deeply sorry I am,” Gandhi said. “It would have been far easier for me to go home and say I’m done with it. It would have been far easier on my family. But that would be running from responsibility of something that happened on my watch.”

Since the scandal broke last month, Gandhi has been making the rounds and talking to community groups in an attempt to shore up support. The case is the biggest embezzlement investigation in the history of the district of Columbia. Federal authorities have charged eight people, including two DC tax office workers, with stealing more than $20 million through bogus property tax refunds issued since 2001. A Washington Post analysis identified $44 million in questionable refunds since 1999.

On Monday, Congress blocked a $92,400 raise that would have increased Gandhi’s salary to $279,000. Gandhi said yesterday that he could still command a high-paying job in the private sector but that he is not seeking one. “To walk out at this time would be a dereliction of my responsibility to the city,” he said.

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