Millennium Post

Controversial IRS officer Neeraj Singh's suspension extended by 6 months

New Delhi: The suspension of controversial senior Income Tax Commissioner Neeraj Singh, whose role in a massive money-laundering racket is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, has now been further extended for six months from September 22 onwards, following the President's approval of the same based on the circumstances of the case and the recommendation of the Review Committee of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

Singh, a 1994-batch IRS officer was first placed under suspension by the CBDT after Millennium Post reported about a Kolkata Police FIR, which accused him of being part of a money-laundering racket run and operated by an accountant Govind Aggarwal.

While Singh has denied any connection with Aggarwal and refuted all allegations against him, since his suspension on July 1 last year, the ED has proceeded with its money-laundering probe, attached properties linked to his family members, raided his premises and questioned him several times.

Significantly, the financial probe agency had also found his involvement in the Rs 15,000 crore Rose Valley chit fund case and more importantly discovered the extent of Aggarwal's racket, which according to preliminary inquiries involve at least 10 senior revenue officials, as per a senior official aware of the probe.

This list of senior officials includes the likes of a former Central Vigilance Commissioner, a former member (Investigation) CBDT, an Ex-DG (Investigation) posted in Kolkata and at least five other Commissioners/Chief Commissioners of Income Tax.

The CBDT had before placing Singh under suspension also served him with a chargesheet, which accused him of taking up presidentship of a football club without authorisation and also mentioned the money-laundering case against him.

According to the ED's investigation so far, Agarwal's job in the racket was simple — if tax officials conducted raids or started any serious investigation, the accountant would broker a deal to settle the case and accept kickbacks on behalf of the concerned public official, which he would then launder through his web of paper companies. One senior official said such payments to the civil servants were part of the racket and were laundered with extreme care to avoid detection, with complex layers of structuring that veiled the money-trail.

In fact, the ED had also found that HM Diwan Jewellers in Kolkata had allegedly routed kickbacks to Singh through this system, which had led to the acquisition of a Santa Cruz property under one of Singh's relatives. This property was attached by the agency in July with the ED claiming that part of the Rs 5 crore Singh had allegedly received from Diwan was used to purchase the flat.

While sources have said that other senior revenue officials found to be a part of the racket have been called for recording their statements, other large private entities which are suspected to have used the Aggarwal-run money-laundering racket now include Lux Industries chief Ashok Todi, who was also accused in the Rizwanur Rahman case by the CBI in 2007. It also includes another large steel and infrastructure company and its chief, who has submitted to questioning by the ED and is cooperating, according to a senior official.

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