Banks misused for cash in NE: I-T Dept

GUWAHATI, Apr 3: Suspicious deposits and withdrawals are taking place in banks in the Northeast ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, a senior income tax (I-T) department official said on Wednesday.
At least Rs 1.96 crore in cash have been seized across the region since the model code of conduct (MCC) came into effect on 10 March.
Addressing a press conference here in Assam, Income Tax Principal Director (Investigation) Sanjay Bahadur said over 150 officials have been deployed across the Northeast to monitor 112 districts and 12 airports.
The official said banks are being used as safe conduits to hide and move suspicious cash, which came into light after procuring 10 days’ data from five major banks.
“Even from this small sample, hundreds of suspicious cash deposits and withdrawals in banks for amounts more than Rs 10 lakhs have been discovered and are under scanner. Inquiries have already been initiated in about 200 cases so far,” Bahadur said.
“The magnitude and frequency of such transactions is a matter of grave concern and the directorate is gearing up for massive exercise of investigation in days to come as data from over 100 banks across Northeast is expected to be received,” he said.
The official said the directorate’s independent intelligence gathering initiative has thrown up an alarming fact that huge amounts of suspicious cash has been deposited in banks, including rural and cooperative ones, in the weeks preceding the announcement of elections.
“Huge amounts of suspicious cash withdrawals have also been made. These transactions have so far gone below the radar of routine process of election expenditure monitoring and the ground level intelligence indicates it is highly possible that substantial part of this cash flow is being misused for vitiating free and fair elections,” he added.
Bahadur said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of India, the RBI and major banks operating in the Northeast have been asked to supply digital data relating to cash deposits and withdrawals above Rs 10 lakhs.
“This data is being received in batches since past one week and is being analyzed. We have requested for real-time reports for the election period for prompt action,” he said.
“As on 2 April, seizures of Rs 1.96 crore cash in various interceptions, including at airports, have been made in Northeast under the Income Tax Act since announcement of election dates,” Bahadur said.
The directorate is coordinating with the state CEOs, DEOs, police and other law enforcement agencies in the region on daily basis, he informed.
Bahadur said the Election Commission has directed the I-T investigation directorates to use all resources at their command to make expenditure monitoring effective and several steps have been taken independently in absence of required inputs from designated authorities so far. (PTI)