A Pakistani man has been arrested by the central GST intelligence officials for illegally selling pan masala worth crores of rupees in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and neighbouring states even during the lockdown period, officials said on Thursday.
The accused, who had a long-term visa, was arrested on Wednesday by the officials of Directorate General of Goods and Services Intelligence (DGGI) in Indore, about 195-kms from Bhopal, they said.
The arrest came after the DGGI officers conducted simultaneous search operations at five godowns controlled and operated by the accused as well as his residence in Indore on Saturday and Sunday.
“Unaccounted stock of pan masala / tobacco having total estimated value of about Rs 2.25 crore was seized during the search operation,” a statement issued by the Additional Director General, DGGI, Bhopal zone, said.
Pan masala/tobacco was found to be stored in the godowns clandestinely for its distribution in various districts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other neighbouring states, the statement said.
During the search at the residential premises, Rs 66.47 lakh unaccounted cash amount was also seized, it said.
In his statement given to the officers, the accused confessed that the seized cash was the sale proceeds of the pan masala/tobacco supplied without issuing invoice and without payment of GST, the statement said.
Based on preliminary investigations by the DGGI, it has been estimated that the accused person and his associates have evaded GST of around Rs 18.80 crore on the goods, valued at about Rs 40 crore, sold illicitly for cash during the period from April 2019 to May 2020, it said.
Considering the huge scale of tax evasion, in order to protect revenue, procedure of provisional attachment of immovable properties and bank accounts of the accused was initiated.
“Under this process three immovable properties and five bank accounts belonging to the accused and his associate were provisionally attached on Wednesday,” the statement said.
The accused was arrested on Wednesday and produced before an Economic Offences Wing (EOW) Court in Indore that has remanded him to 14 days judicial custody up to June 17, it said.
“Investigations by DGGI have also revealed that the arrested person is a Pakistan Passport holder,” the statement said.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been informed about his arrest, an official said.
The arrested person, aged 33 years, is a native of Jacobabad city under Sindh province of Pakistan, the official said.
Guthkha sale and consumption is banned across most Indian states. The sale and distribution of pan masala and chewing tobacco had also been completely banned across India due to the pandemic-induced lockdown implemented from March 25, considering its risk in spreading COVID-19 infection.
“This detection and evidence collected by DGGI indicates that some unscrupulous dealers may have, unfortunately, taken undue benefit of this emergent situation,” the DGGI statement said.
The market information suggests that these banned goods were being sold and consumed in some places within Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra during the lockdown period, at 4-5 times their usual market rates, it said.
“This case has highlighted the risks involving illicit sale and consumption of products like pan masala, tobacco, especially during the pandemic,” the statement said.
In view of the pandemic situation, all officers of the DGGI strictly followed and enforced social distancing norms and took appropriate precautions during the searches, it said.
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