Coal trader, four others arrested in Assam for tax evasion worth crores

According to ground reports, thousands of coal-laden trucks have been sent to Bangladesh through the Gasuapara land custom station. E-way bills from the Kingpin’s firm in Guwahati was used to export coal resulting in huge revenue loss for the state.

SHILLONG/ GUWAHATI, Feb 11: Balwant Soni alias Bhama, a coal trader, was arrested in a case of tax evasion along with four others from the Basistha area of Guwahati on Wednesday.
The arrests were made based on an FIR lodged by the Assam tax department about pilferage of Rs 40 crore.
In the past month, Bhama is said to have purchased a Jeep, a Fortuner and some heavy machines (excavators) – mostly with money he was illegally siphoning off through the use of his e-way bills from coal businessmen in Gasuapara in South Garo Hills.
The Assam police explained the charges but did not provide an estimate of the amount of tax evaded, stating the matter would become clearer in a few days. More arrests in the case are expected in the coming days, police sources said.
The arrest of Bhama is likely to embarrass the Meghalaya government as the entire operation – from mining to transport to export – was being done within the state while e-way bills were generated from Assam in the name of Bhama’s firm.
Coal was illegally transported allegedly with the blessings of powers-that-be. Despite the pilferage of taxes from coal or reports of illegal coal transport, no inquiry has been conducted by the state till date.
Earlier, flagging the issue of illegal mining of coal, All India Trinamool Congress leader, Mukul Sangma had promised to take it up with Chief Secretary RV Suchiang for a probe. However, for reasons not known, no complaints were lodged with her. The party also chose to maintain silence thereafter.
Only Bhama’s firm was allowed operation by the state government. Its e-way bills could be used to export coal to Bangladesh through Gasuapara.
On paper, the coal was being transported from Assam through the Dainadubi check gate in North Garo Hills. However, the ground reality was completely different.
No trucks carrying coal entered the state from Assam through Dainadubi. The Dainadubi check gate is equipped with CCTV cameras. Whether or not coal was brought to the state from Assam can be verified with the help of these cameras.
According to ground reports, thousands of coal-laden trucks have been sent to Bangladesh through the Gasuapara land custom station. As no challans were issued, it caused a huge revenue loss for the state, estimated to run into crores of rupees.
Assam Police is interrogating the five persons. A case (number 180/22 under Sections 120 (B)/468/420/471) has been registered at Basistha police station.
Police however have not disclosed any more details.
“We cannot disclose details as they are being interrogated,” Basistha police station officer-in-charge D. Goyari told The Shillong Times on Friday evening. (Contd on P-4)
Coal trader, four others arrested…
(Contd from P-1) Asked about the antecedents of Bhama and whether he had any connections with illegal coal trade in Garo Hills, the police officer only said that he belonged to Assam and was arrested from the city.
Joint Commissioner of Police, Guwahati, Partha Sarathi Mahanta had earlier informed the media that the extent of the tax evasion was estimated to run into several crores of rupees.
Multiple phone calls from this correspondent to senior police officials, including the Deputy Commissioner of Police (East), however went unanswered.
Unofficial sources said that Bhama, engaged in coal business in the Basistha area, and four others – Bikash Sharma, Bajrang Sharma, Surender and Jagjit Bhama – were arrested on the basis of an FIR filed by the department of taxes, Assam, at Basistha police station.
“The five accused coal traders are originally from Haryana. They have been residing in the Beltola area here and allegedly operating coal business here. They have been accused of evading GST to the tune of Rs 40 crore by the department of taxes, Assam,” the source told The Shillong Times.
A vehicle (Fortuner), bearing registration number ML11 A 0117, has been seized from their possession by police after their arrest by Basistha Police here on Wednesday. They are believed to also own a dumper and JCB operator, etc as well, the source said.
Sources further said that raids are being conducted by the taxation department.

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