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March 3, 2000
IT official confirms VDIS declaration by cricketer
Onkar Singh in Delhi
Vishwabandhu Gupta, the additional commissioner of income tax posted at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, created a flutter last week when he told a television channel that a former captain of the Indian cricket team had declared Rs 16 crore (Rs 160 million) under the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme in 1997.
In an interview with rediff.com, Gupta confirmed that a former skipper had indeed made such a declaration under the VDIS, but refused to confirm the player's identity.
"I am planning two separate letters -- one to the Board for Control of Cricket in India and the other to N Vittal, the central vigilance commissioner. When a cricketer declares this kind of income he is certainly not disclosing clean money. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about betting by Indian players. The BCCI would get clinching evidence if they were to ask each and every player to file an affidavit whether they had declared anything under the VDIS. I am sure many more players must have taken advantage of the scheme and declared their black money because these declarations must have been made at various places all over India," Gupta asserted.
"In my second letter to Vittal, I plan to give details of how finance ministry officials connived with those who had made declarations under VDIS. The scheme, which was started in July 1997 and continued till December 31, 1997 proved a boon for those seeking to convert their black money into white money. Sometimes in the middle of July 1997 the finance ministry issued a circular which created certain loopholes in the VDIS and criminal elements took advantage of those loopholes. This circular was in force for almost four months before it was withdrawn as suddenly as it had been issued," he claimed.
According to him, though the actual declarations were anywhere between Rs 300,000 crores and Rs 350,000 crores the money deposited in the government coffers was only Rs 10,000 crores. "While most paid 30 per cent as tax on declared income some paid only between 2 to 5 per cent only," he alleged.
He wanted the government to order a CBI inquiry and punish the guilty. "The purpose of my writing a letter to Vittal is to ensure that the matter is investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CVC can direct the CBI to investigate the matter. I am going to give all available information to the CVC and let him decide what to do with it," Gupta said.
He did not agree with an argument advanced by former Test opener Chetan Chauhan that the income declared by the former Indian cricket captain could have come from the sponsors in black money, and hence the player was forced to declare his income. "I am not willing to buy this argument. This income is simply astounding, and we as income tax people know how this kind of money flows in," he said.
He refuted the allegation that by disclosing confidential information he had committed a breach of trust. "There are two clauses in the VDIS. While one assures you of confidentiality, the other makes it clear that criminal money cannot be declared under the scheme. When the two are taken together, the second will get priority over the former," he said.
"If the disclosures made by some cricketers are properly investigated, we should be able to connect them to betting which has been taking place heavily in the game in recent years. I personally believe that betting runs into thousands of crores," the revenue official claimed.
Only three people -- the finance minister, the finance secretary and the revenue secretary -- have access to the list of VDIS applicants.
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